Monday, May 10, 2010

Walk like an Egyptian (onion)

There are few plants in my garden now that I feel I need to highlight because of how awesome I think they are, one is these is my Egyptian Walking Onion, also known as a Tree Onion:

(this a pic taken of it earlier in the year where it looks more plain jane-y, but later pics show its true glory)

Egyptian Walking onions are interesting plants named for their habit of growing bulblets rather than flowers at the tips of their stalks.  These bulblets sprout while on their "mother" stalk and eventually grow so heavy that the mother stalk begins to bend and lean until the bulblets touch the ground and sprout into the ground to form new plants (or an impatient human takes the bulblets and just plants them elsewhere to his or her liking :)

 (very cool how the bulblet sheath accumulates steam/condensation within.  The curl at the tip makes me think of elf hats... so festive!)

(a bulblet pushing its way out of its bulb sheath)

They are a wonderfully hardy plant from zones 3-9 and begin to form bulblets anytime from late spring to early fall, though I swear mine started in early spring.

In my zone 7b/8a (contested), they are evergreen year around and are grown not only for their delicious, very spicy bulbs/bulblets and thick green onion stems, but for their wonderfully ornamental nature.

(if Medusa could be a plant... here she is)

 I don't eat this plant too often because I love so much how it looks and I want to develop a very large patch before I allow myself to eat them voraciously because though each onion packs a punch, they are small.  For flavor, good.  For volume, yeah, need to wait on that (but they are quite prolific!).  My patch is a couple years old and it has gotten to quite a good size!  Some of the mother stalks are about an inch thick in diameter!

(the papery texture of onions in general is always cool, but Egyptian onions take it to a new level, with an almost sinuous feeling movement their stalks form)

This is one plant I don't think I could live without after encountering it now.  It's useful, virtually pest free, very forgiving of the soil it's grown in and structurally amazing with it's bulges of bulbs and twisty nature, and always makes people (plants lovers or not) say, "What the heck is that?!"



Anna said...

The Medusa description is spot on.
This is the first I've ever seen or read of this type of Onion.

The latter photos are eerily beautiful.
The before photo is great for comparison as I'm still in awe. Perhaps it should have been called 'The Medusa Onion'.

Can the stalks be eaten like scallion?


persephone said...

Hi Anna! Glad you liked the pics, a gorgeous plant, eh? The stalks can be be used exactly as scallions! They're thicker and meatier, but I personally like that (and the fact that this is a perennial/evergreen plant for me), so good harvesting in winter. The only thing that keeps me from using the stalks more is that I worry I'll lose some of those cool bulblets if I do!

Sylvana said...

Someone in our neighborhood has been growing these for years. I am very particular about onions as I have an intolerance for a particular chemical that they produce (it gives me migraines) - so I stick to the sweet ones which don't have as much of it (leeks, shallots, reds, most whites, and the Vadalia type all are OK - some of the other yellows, not so much). I have heard that these taste like spicy shallots and would like to try them. Maybe someone will have them at our farmer's market - or I can coax some off the neighbor :) If they work for me, I might try to grow them. I love perennial vegetables!