Spring Planting, Onions

Neither cook’s garden nor herbal garden can be complete without onions.  Their flavor and nutritional punch add immeasurably to a self-sufficient homestead and their medicinal properties are legion.

Onions are either biennial or perennial, and the onion sets from box stores come in white yellow and red  and are biennials.  Not a bad deal, less than $2 for 80 yellow onions.  Even if you eat some as green onions, one or two bags are a year’s supply for most families.

Less common in the US are French Red Shallots (Allium cepa var. aggregatum).  Red Shallots contain high levels of vitamin B6 and minerals, but also more flavonoids and phenols than other onions.  These elite little onions are perennial, buy once and keep forever.  Hardy in USA zones 2-9 which means that they last forever in my New Mexico garden, just like they did in my Texas and Washington gardens.  Like all Alliums they bloom prettily even when mixed into your flower beds.  If you want to store them, they last over six months under good conditions.  I interplant these around my other vegetables, because all onion and garlic plants repel pests.

I’itoi’s Onion is a landrace clumping onion that was an old Allium cepa variety brought in by early Jesuit Missionaries.  It was found naturalized on Babaquivari Mountain in Arizona. I’Itoi means Elder Brother, the creator deity of the Tohono O’odham tribe, who is called Man in the Maze.  I just ordered these and hope I can get them to naturalize here as well.

For a second chance at a naturalized bunching onion, I have Evergreen Hardy Onion, another perennial.  It is also Allium cepa and is called a true multiplier onion.  These are seeds.  In Texas and Washington I had wild onions lurking in my yard and garden.  I have no idea what their Latin names were, but I ate them all year long.  I hope I get a landrace bunching onion here.

I have grown Egyptian Walking Onions, but they are sterile.  I only want genetically viable plants in my garden… darn!  They are cute.

Indoors, I have Chives.  I have kept this pot going for 4 years.  Chives also grow outside, where I kept them in Dallas and Seattle.  There they are available all winter; here, they have been living in my kitchen window and just moved to my indoor garden shelves.  All year long these are my go to onion for salads.  I snip them on top of soups also.

Allium cepa varieties all cross when close.  Since Shallots and bunching onions  propagate vegetatively, they maintain their genetic material.  If I get a naturalized cross, I may have my own landrace onions.  Allium cepa has no known wild varieties, but it can naturalize and become a landrace variety.

I ordered Rakkyo (Allium chinense), a mild and fresh tasting perennial bunching onion used in most Asian cuisines.  It is commonly pickled in rice vinegar and served as a side dish.  Although this is a native to China, it has naturalized in Japan, Russia, Mongolia, and Korea.  It is a hugely productive variety and i look forward to planting it here in the mountains and using it to accent my summer stir-fry meals.

Red Beard (Allium fistulosum) is a Japanese bunching onion with vivid red stems much loved in Asian cooking.  It matures in 40 to 50 days.  This is a beautiful onion typical of Asian cuisine.

Now that I am retired I might take a cooking class… Vietnamese being my favorite Asian cuisine.  My only training was from my former Chinese boss, who also taught me a few words in Mandarin.  what she gave was a general concept that works no matter what the ingredients are, which varies from location to location.

I learned to cook many Mexican dishes while living in Mexico.  Yum!  Living in New Mexico is the ultimate, and I use the onion sets for Mexican food.  I already bought sets, but in a week or two I will look through Seed Savers Catalog for good varieties to grow from seed.

Onions were given to Pharoah’s slaves, a couple pounds a day, to keep them strong and healthy.  They rioted when the allotment was missing!







About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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8 Responses to Spring Planting, Onions

  1. Helen says:

    Interesting story about Egypt…. Are all Egyptian Walking Onions sterile, by the way?

  2. Helen, so they say. I grew them in Texas, and liked them. This garden has such a focus on landrace species and genetic diversity that I decided to leave them out. In Texas and Washington, I had wild or landrace species in every garden. Here I am ordering a diverse mix to see if I can get something to naturalize. I play in the garden more than work, so I make up a theme or game. On my 14 acres, I rebuilt native prairie for the most part, and planted every prairie edible I could find. On this property, I have a “native” food forest and am focusing on landrace varieties that survive my harsh conditions. In one Texas garden I pushed microclimate to their extreme and managed both more tropicals and cold requirement plants.

    Note that my garden will still have blueberries and strawberries! No purist, I. Keep in mind that I have gardened 50 years!

  3. Foxglove666 says:

    Hey Reb, glad you posted about garlic and onions – I stink at growing both, no pun intended! Love them, but have a hard time getting them to grow in pnw. I know they can, just not for me so far. However, I will keep trying.

    • Hi Foxglove666,
      My guess is that you get too much rain for then and they don’t like acidic soil. Once you have your mushrooms up and running, mushroom compost (alkaline) will improve your vegetable beds and you won’t have to buy lime for your tomatoes, either. As for dampness, in Maple Valley Washington I used glacier rocks and built a raised bed. At your place I imagine you have enough rocks to raise them up a bit for better drainage. Definitely full sun although they’ll take some shade in Texas. You’ll see a lot better results!

  4. Foxglove666 says:

    Sweet! Thanks for the tips. 🙂

  5. emi love says:

    Where did you end up finding rakkyo (allium chinense)? I’ve been having a difficult time finding a source for these to plant.

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