Walking Onions Galore, A Love Affair

It’s been another amazing year with these heirloom North American native perennial onions. They’re easy to propagate, don’t need fertilizer, and are pest resistant. They’re super easy to grow organically. I’m getting very creative with them; we haven’t bought onions for a couple of years and that’s a small locovore triumph for us!


In late July I harvested the top set bulbs. There are plenty for fall planting and for sharing with friends. 


At the end of July the ‘parent’ onions were cut back and the bed was cleaned up. Already, they’re sprouting green tops again – our first salad onions of early fall. 

Here are my favorite ways to use these onions in garden and kitchen, plus a recap of our year with Thomas Jefferson’s “Tree Onions.”

USES
1. Inter-plant top sets with cucumber and squash vines to help hold off the squash bugs. Their strong scent confuses the bugs; marigolds make great companion planting partners with the onions. As the cuc season winds down, harvest and enjoy eating the tender green onions. If you leave a few in the bed, no worries – they’ll come back next spring for an early season harvest. 
2. Mix the top sets into the fall lettuce planting in late summer for delicious and tender fall green onions. This companion planting can help deter flea beetles. 
3. Pickle the top sets! 
Look for the recipe in my previous blog post. 
4. Make a modern version of Grandma’s Creamed Potatoes: Peel and steam the top sets with new potatoes until just tender, then gently stir them into a cream sauce. Top with shredded cheese and fresh parsley. YUM – A hearty and different side dish for your next barbecue.
5. Plant the top sets around the edges of your fall/winter greens bed, cover the bed with 6 mm greenhouse plastic over PVC pipe hoops and enjoy green onions all winter. 

6. Continuing from #5: In spring, allow bulbs to grow larger.

Harvest in May and use the bulbs as slicing onions; chop and freeze the green tops in ziploc bags for adding to stock. 

THE ONION YEAR
Winter: 
If your bed is set up as a low hoop house, harvest and enjoy onions from the established parent group.  If not, dream and plan how you’ll change it up for next winter!
This was my harvest on Jan. 19:

They cleaned up beautifully!

Spring: 
In late February or early March, check for signs of new growth; trim and remove dead stalks.  To jump-start a dormant onion bed, put greenhouse plastic over PVC  hoops to warm the soil quicker. You’ll have onions a month earlier this way. 
The winter of 2013-14 we left the bed uncovered, then added plastic in March. Our walking onions are just coming out of winter dormancy in this photo. A week later, we were harvesting fresh green onions!
Summer:
Top sets start forming in late May, and continue to grow until late July. The stalks bend over, and the whole bed looks wild and a bit unruly! Keep them watered for larger sets.
Summer is also the time to use top sets for companion plantings (see #1 and 2 in USES). Poke the little bulbs into the soil just to cover, and keep watered. 
In late July, when stalks in the parent bed have bent over and are drying out, harvest all top sets (or leave where they dropped in the bed if you’re trying to 
increase the density of your bed). Trim back all mature stalks to 4″. Water the bed if weather is dry. New sprouts will start in a week or two. 
Top sets can be stored in a single layer on trays in a cool dry location indoors for several weeks until ready to plant. If using for cooking, store in a closed container in refrigerator. 
FALL
Harvest newly sprouted green tops for salads and stir frys. Interplant top sets with fall greens. As winter approaches, cover parent bed with plastic over PVC hoops or simply leave the bed as is until spring. Harvest a few bulbs from mature parent bed for Creamed Onions at Thanksgiving. 
Enjoy your Walking Onions with gratitude for all of Nature’s bounty. 

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