Every time I purchase onions at the farmer’s market I think about how I need to grow more in my garden. I do grow onions, they’re usually small in size because our soil is very lean and I don’t grow near enough to fulfill our love of onions. This winter I’ve been spending some time reading about other options to regular bulbing onions to fill my onion needs throughout the year. The key will be coming up with a variety of alliums that would be ready for harvest at various times throughout the year. I need to learn to think outside the bulb onion box if I want to grow most of the onions we eat.
Of course there are leeks, I planted some last fall, but they weren’t big enough going in to winter. Leeks are a great fall and winter source of onion flavor if you can get the timing right and grow the right cold tolerant variety. These are some lovely leeks I saw in Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Garden last October when I visited. (since people are always asking about the varieties I grow and where I get my seeds from I’ll be listing them below).
These are the different leeks that I’m going to try growing this year. Some of them are seeded in my basement seed starting area already, some will be seeded this summer for fall harvest.
Tadorna Leek – A vigorous grower producing a medium-length white shaft and contrasting, upright, very dark blue-green foliage. Holds in the field for fall into winter harvest, and overwinters where winter cold is moderate. Resistant to leaf diseases. This variety is recommended by Eliot Coleman. Source: Johnny’s Selected
Bleu of Solaise – A 19th century French leek with deep blue-green leaves that have a violet cast in cool weather; in cool weather they excel, being very cold hardy. This good-sized variety is finely flavored and a favorite of European gourmet gardeners and chefs, but hard to find in this country. Source: Baker Creek
Carentan Leek – Long, thick (2 inches across); vigorous and fast growing; delicate, deliciously mild flavor; great fresh or cooked. The Carentan leek was mentioned by Vilmorin in 1885. An old European favorite that is becoming rare. Very adaptable and yields are good. Source: Baker Creek
Primor French Baby Leeks – First quality French hybrid especially developed for sweetness and tender texture to use as babies. Fast maturing for summer harvests. Superior flavor to domestic varieties. Source: Renee’s Garden
In the spring I’m planning for scallions and bunching onions, these should help fill the space between the end of the leeks and bulb onions until shallots and spring leeks are ready to harvest. I’m actually growing one kind of scallion and two different varieties of bunching onions:
‘Evergreen Hardy White Bunching‘ onions – Sow in spring for summer use or sow in fall for overwintering. Little or no bulbing. If your winters are severe, this is the one to grow. May be handled as a perennial by dividing the clumps the second summer to produce a new crop. Source: Johnny’s Selected
‘Red Welch’ – (Allium fistulosum) Super-hardy bunching onion that originated in northern China or Siberia, despite its name. Grown for its thick green stems and hollow leaves which possess a sharp onion flavor. This perennial never forms a bulb in the garden; once established, new plants can be raised by replanting the abundant side-shoots. May be blanched like leeks by earthing up the thick stems as the plants grow. Widely employed in the cuisines of Japan, Taiwan, and China. This crop is also grown among the Welsh, hence its name. Easy to grow and productive once established. Source:Baker Creek
Delicious Duo Salad Scallions – Our unique and handsome blend of Red Robin and Green Feast scallions bred for color, quality, heat tolerance and disease resistance. Source: Renee’s Garden
I planted ‘Evergreen Hardy White’ onions late last fall in my plastic covered raised bed. They seem to be doing well and should provide a nice early onion for cooking. They’re exceptionally cold hardy, of course you’ll hear about it when I harvest them and get a full report of how they did growing throughout the winter.
Shallots are also a great source, they’re planted in the fall like garlic and harvested the following summer. I planted some shallots this past fall, I can’t wait see how they produce. I’ve never grown them before so I’m interested in their size and length of storage. I sourced my shallots from Local Roots market, I just purchased a quart of shallots and planted them.
I also have Egyptian walking onions and perennial potato onions growing in the garden. Both of them were purchased from Southern Exposure in the fall of 2009. This fall I’m expecting to get some of their perennial leeks to add to my allium collection. The egyptian walking onions are just getting established so I haven’t harvested any of them yet, but I’m looking forward to eating a few to see what they’re like. The potato onions are really great, I really like them. They grow well for me in my lean soil, it’s nice that you plant sets in the fall and harvest in spring. They don’t store as long as other onions, but they fill the gap between green and bulbing onions.
Of course I have a few varieties of bulbing onions as well that will be growing in my garden this year:
Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion – These golden onions produce fruit up to 1 lb (16 oz.) and their great flavor lasts longer than most other varieties. Yellow Sweet Spanish onions are gardeners’ favorites because they grow quickly without much effort. You will be able to harvest your onions less than four months after planting. Source: Sand Hill Preservation
Borettana Cipollini – Gourmet Italian. Small, flat yellow onions. Shaped much like a button. A long day type with average storage ability of around 4 months. Mild well developed flavor. These flattened little onions are sought after for their distinct sweet taste. They command a high price at specialty markets. Small size 1-3 inches in diameter by 1 inch depth. For pickling, grilling and in salads. A good onion for colder climates. Comes out firm, stores well. Fills the gap between winter-stored onions and the early new ones. Source: Sand Hill Preservation
Yellow of Parma – Large, golden onions are oblong-globe shaped. This late onion makes an excellent keeper; a rare and hard-to-find Italian variety. Source: Baker Creek
Stuttgarter Onion – A tasty old favorite that sets medium-large, yellow onions with a good, pungent flavor. This variety is among the best keepers and produces well. Plant some of these for winter eating and store them clear through to next spring. Source: Baker Creek
Juane Paille des Vertes – Introduced about 1793, this old onion is now hard to find. It is also called Brown Spanish by French seed house Vilmorin; in 1885 they said, “The winter supply of Paris and of a great part of Europe consists chiefly of this variety, which may be often seen hanging up in dwelling-houses in long hanks formed by interlacing and plaiting the withered leaves together.” The roots are flattened and 3-4 inches across; the skin is a brownish yellow and the flesh is flavorful. This antique is known for its keeping qualities that made it a standard in Europe for over 200 years. Source: Baker Creek
All of these bulbing onions are currently seeded and growing nicely in the basement seed starting area. No doubt some of these will not do well, others will thrive, I’ll keep you posted on the how they all do. The only thing I’m worried about is finding enough space in the garden for all of these lovely alliums. WHEW – hope that’s not too much information for you!
Do you grow onions? How many different kinds of alliums do you grow?Filed under Edible | Comments (23)