I love green onions! Chopped up and added to omelets, marvelous with salmon, and a great ingredient in salads and soups of all kinds, there never seemed to be enough green onion in my garden to satisfy me. That is, not until I started growing Perennial Walking Onions.
Sometimes called Egyptian Walking Onions, this slick branch of the onion family really specializes in something that all members of the Onions family are capable of. Vegetative multiplication. Alliums of of kinds can multiply by forming bulbils that turn into plants from the basal plate on the bottom of the bulb, and the walking onion is no exception. This is why we can plant a clove of garlic and end up getting a bulb of garlic. The new cloves arise from the basil plate of the first clove. What makes the walking onions particularly prolific is that they also have an additional trick.
Late in the season a flower bud of sorts forms at the very top of the green onion leaf. As time goes by, the thin, papery, bud-like structure bursts and a treasure of tiny bulbils are visible, clustered tightly together inside. Break the cluster of bulbils out of the case and you might even see tiny shoots and roots already emerging from some, or all, of the baby bulbs.
If you left it up to Mother Nature the weight of these bulbs perched on the tip of the slender green onion leaf topple the plant over and the bulbils fall to the ground. This process will result in the onions “walking” from place to place, then growing wherever they have fallen. I’m not much of a control freak about my garden, (honest! ), however even I can only eat so many green onions. I went from not enough to an absolute abundance in a couple of seasons.
I also like to grow and eat a variety of things so can’t let the onions crowd out my kale, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and mustard greens. Some walking onions will indeed grow happily between these plants as good companions, but all onions do like sun so they might not continue to thrive as the other plants get bigger. A good companion for walking onions is carrot. The fine foliage of the carrots doesn’t overly shade the onions, and the smell of any onion will tend to discourage pests like carrot fly.
If you are worried about the difficulty of growing something so wonderful, don’t. These onions have an amazing will to live! I left a dish full of bulbils outside in the garden late in the season, purely by accident. Went away on a boat trip and my entire garden was covered with crunchy, frozen snow when I returned. I totally forgot about them. A couple of weeks it snowed and froze again. When the snow finally started to melted the second time there they were, still sitting in their dish. Some of them were sprouting, their little mini sprouts a brilliant green, and some had healthy little roots poking out of them. I planted some up that had roots and shoots and also some that did not and put them under lights on a heat mat to see if they were worth saving. Amazingly enough a few days later they all had roots and shoots and were starting to grow. I’m was taking off on another adventure so took them off the heat and put them into the unheated greenhouse when the weather warmed above freezing, and they continued to grow. I have no doubt I will be eating green onions from my new plants and mother plants, still in the ground, by the time I get home at the end of January.