You’ve never heard of Perennial Onions? Probably because you’re no doubt under the age of 110. However, if you WERE ‘of an age’… you would know all about Perennial Onions, aka ‘Multiplier Onions’, which, were once grown in every respectable cottage garden all over Europe and the UK.
What on earth are multiplier onions? These are perennials which form a cluster of underground bulbs from each bulb planted. And once these are established in your garden –unlike conventional annual globe onions –multipliers improve in size and quality, and their bulbs can be replanted year after year after year.
The multiplier onion, aka the 'Potato onion' was very popular until the turn of last century when onions that were more easily farmed by nouveau mechanical means, became the focus of commercial farming. Because this onion multiplies so effortlessly –one bulb soon becomes 6 or 8,– it is making a comeback among savvy gardeners. And so, doing the planet (and us) a great favor in saving their gene bank heritage by planting them. One great food source for the Self-Sufficient, and a Must for the edible forest garden eco system on auto pilot.
Heat up your Garden, your Dinner, and those Pests
There are yellow multiplier onions, white multipliers, potatoes onions, and topsetting onions—aka walking Egyptian onions. All wonders that will keep you in onions once planted, for the rest of your life sans any grocery store.
And although we may appreciate these tasty bulbs spicing up our dinners, the smaller furry set most certainly do Not. Meaning… if you’d like another modus operandi for skedaddling mice, voles, gophers and the like out of your garden, then a good set of spicy Egyptian Onions might be right up your alley. These are also effective to plant surrounding coveted edibles such as your strawberry patch, (and no worries; the berries do Not take on the onion flavor).
Multipliers are planted in Fall as is garlic, 6” apart allowing the tips of the bulb to lie even with the soil surface. Spread a few inches of compost over your bulbs, and fertilize with high nitrogen (like fish emulsion or seaweed mix) once and again after 8 weeks.
Walk Like An Egyptian
Topsetting Onions Allium cepa, Proliferum Group: Egyptian onions, also known as tree or walking onions, are very hardy Heirloom perennials. These fascinating onions form several small bulbs underground, plus they produce clusters of reddish hazelnut-sized bulblets that form at the top of each seed stalk. Oddly these actually have no normal flowers.
The underground bulbs have a very strong flavor and can be used in a wide variety of your favorite recipes. The stalk bulblets are somewhat spicy, are delicious pickled, and can also be used when pickling other garden vegetables. Be sure to replant some of the bulblets to keep your walking onion patch going.
Plant these 5-6 inches apart, 1 inch deep in rows or clusters spaced 12 inches apart. Once Egyptian onions have established themselves, you can harvest and cook with the bulbs at the base of the plant, and replant the bulblets gathered from the top of the stems. If left untended, you will understand the term “walking onion”, as the onion stalks will bend down to the ground and take root all by themselves; walking across your garden. (However; can one have too many onions?)
Harvest walking onions from late summer through early fall, and use a garden fork to gently lift the clumps and separate the bulbs. In more severe microclimates, bulbs should be stored and planted in the Spring. And these onions store brilliantly –up to 1 whole year in optimal storage. Bulbs should be dried on racks or screens out of direct sunlight. Select and save the biggest and best bulbs for replanting in fall and store inside a mesh bag in a cool, shaded, dry location. Because the bulbs store so well, and because the multiplier onion rarely produces seeds, and so is grown by planting the incredibly prolific hardy bulbs, it is one effortless crop guaranteed to bring success to any kinder-gardener or seasoned one.
An Anti-aging Antioxidant Worth Having Around
On a health note; interestingly, onion enthusiasts tend to develop fewer cases of certain cancers owing to the presence of Quercetin, a potent antioxidant capable of suppressing the rapid spread of malignant cells. Laboratory studies also point to quercetin’s effective anti-inflammatory properties --now known as one of the major culprits of aging --, for pain management, and its ability to treat fibromyalgia. Like its cousins in the onion family, the multiplier onion also helps reduce cholesterol, protects the nerves and the cardiovascular system, and gives a powerful boost to the immune system.
So how can you get these into your own garden? Southern Exposure at the link below has an excellent selection of Multiplier Onions, along with many other great edible Forest Garden plants.
Check it out, and enjoy the benefits of forever heirloom Onions in your own backyard~
I grow perennial onions/leek and use them as emerancy onions when I run out of normal ones . I find that they are very small and a faff on to prepare compared to normal ones and cannot replace them really in terms of volume and taste
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few
Location: Mt Shasta, CA
posted 6 years ago
Have you tried the Yellow Potato Multiplier (aka; the 'Mother. or 'pregnant' multiplier)? This old heirloom--earlier than 1790, grows 4" bulbs, less strong yet very flavorful. Great producer, and onions can be stored up to a year in good conditions. Great low maintenance perennial for all the onions one would ever need.