When a Colorado friend said that I needed Egyptian Onions. I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. But since her goals are essentially the same as mine, she had my interest. Especially since I've failed miserably a number of times trying to start onions from seeds. Oh I can grow the seeds really well and collect them just fine but all the plants that come up are super spindly. I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I've done it four times now. I figure if you are going to make a mistake at least you could make a different one each time so you can learn but yet make progress. I'm still stuck at ground zero. That is what made this onion that keeps going on its own sound almost too good to be true. When a friend of my husband, who adores my peanut butter cookies, said he had some and offered a few plants. I figured a trade was in order. His parting words of, "Be careful or they will take over the garden." left me a bit nervous but not detoured. Was this like Spearmint?
Rest assured they are not and I've decided I want more, and more, and more of these. They really are yummy! A bit strange since they clone themselves forming multiple onion sets on the top instead of seeds but strange can be good. When the sets are too heavy to hold up, the stalk bends over allowing the new plants to touch the soil and form roots. Thus one plant becomes many more and from this propagation method comes the name walking onion. The top set of tiny onion plants gives this plant the name Top Onion and for others they may know it as Winter Onion because it is good from zone 3, which is us, to those in zone 6 where you can pick this hardy onion all year. I've read that there are differing types of these onions but then not all relatives look alike so I'm not surprised. They do all have the strange propagation method.
With so few plants, I did not cook with any of the onions until this year mainly due to confusion on the subject. I saw lots of recipes for pickling of the little onion sets on top and learned that you pick them when they are at least a half inch in size. But seriously people, I'm not growing these things for a few tiny little onions on top so I kept researching. Meanwhile, I removed the sets off of the tops of a couple plants like you would the flower bulbs that begin to form on traditional onions.
As I suspected, the energy in the plant went to the bulbs instead of onion top sets. In fact, they gave up growing top sets of onions all together and the bulb increased in size. Now were talking something I can really use.
Now I'm thinking why oh why did I not clip the tops of more of the onions while the sets were just beginning to form? I think I'll pretend it is so I'll have lots and lots of Egyptians Onions to do it to next year and you can bet I will.
As for the rest of you, you can pick the top sets if you like to pickle but it takes a whole heaping lot to amount to anything, so for me, I'm going for the bottoms. If you are harvesting enough bottoms, you can be sure these onions are not going to take over the garden and how could you not. They are too yummy to let walk away.
While I was eating the bottoms, I tasted the top sets too. One has to compare and after all it is what everyone is talking about. Very mild in flavor like I suspicioned - similar to traditional onion stalks. For me that is what this onion is missing. Good tender stalks. The mature stalks are rather tough and woody. They say you can use these onions in the early spring like bunching onions and the stalks at that stage are tender but alas, I did not. Seems to be alot of that this year. Maybe next year I'll feel I have enough to use these as spring onions. They should be ready just about the time my stored onions run out or the last few are getting soft. How perfect is that? Thank you dear friend. These are indeed a must have for my garden.