There are many different types of onions that we can grow in our gardens (and eat).
These edibles have been in cultivation for thousands of years: In the Bronze Age (China), some 5000 BC and of course Pliny the Elder wrote about them, more recently (1st Century)
Some are quite tricky to grow (the common or bulb onion is one of them: I can’t be bothered sowing the seed, then growing them for a year, before planting them out to obtain a harvest in year 2;
I’m too impatient!
Besides: buying onions in the shop doesn’t usually bankrupt a Dutchman, so…
I grow shallots and Egyptian walking onions! These taste quite different and go well with Indonesian dishes too
I’m growing these charming plants every year and right now is the time to harvest them.
So look out for these beauties, on markets and through some of the retailers on the internet (Try Koanga gardens (Koanga.org.nz) and korukai)
You plant them from May to about July – mind you, you can be a bit creative with the planting dates, but generally they are similar in growing season to Garlic.
The best way to propagate them is through the small “bulbils” that form at the end of the stalk in late spring/early summer. Those clumps of bulbils can be separated quite easily.
Spacing around 15 cm in the row and 15 cm between rows; Plant the bulbils not too deep (with the pointy-end upwards) in well-drained soils; add some compost or fertiliser to feed the plant that emerges.
Through winter this Egyptian walking onion will establish itself as a spring onion/garlic look-alike, forming a cluster of shallot-like bulbs in spring.
At the same time, a long “flower”-stalk will grow up that forms a soft, white swollen organ at the top, usually with a curled stalk-end; this eventually will form the cluster of bulbils you can plant next year; however: you can cut off those white, soft bits and finely cut them to use as a mild garlic flavouring in salads.
When all the foliage is rather brown and shrivelled, the large bulbs at the base of the plant can be harvested.
Store your home-grown bulbils in a dark, dry spot through summer and autumn, ready for planting again in early winter.
The reason they are called “Egyptian walking onions is because in summer, when the plant dies down and the bulbil stalk becomes ever so fragile, it will fall over and the bulbils touch the ground a foot or so away from the mother plant.
Thus the new plants walk a short distance away from where they were born.