“Look the Egyptian walking onions have arrived!”
I was opening an envelope that had dropped through our letterbox. Danny looked bemused.
“In Finland they are called Air onions.”
“You didn’t get them sent all the way from Finland did you?” Panicky cash strapped yelp.
“Well yes. They were cheaper than buying them in the UK – including postage.”
“But do we need them?”
“Yes. These are perennial onions. Once you plant them you should have them forever.”
“Ahhh.” The word perennial brings out the purr in D.
I first read about Egyptian walking onions in Mark Diacono’s wonderful book A Taste of the Unexpected. Which is a must read for green fingered foodies everywhere and top of my list for the best gardening/foodie books for 2010. The tiny bulbs can be planted in spring or autumn. They swell to the size of a shallot. Each onion develops little bulbils at the top of the edible stems – the weight of these causes the stems to droop to the ground and the smaller bulbs go onto develop into bigger bulbs. So on ad infinitum. These onion sets literally ‘walk’ – albeit just the one momentous step a year.
Ideally the sets are planted in autumn, so they can develop a root system before the winter frosts. Autumn planting will give a harvest at the end of the summer. Spring planted sets will probably not produce a harvest in the first year. If you leave the parent onion in the ground it will give a bigger harvest the next year. Apparently these onions store much better than shallots or ordinary onions and they are strong flavoured to.
I’m not growing shallots this year. These Egyptian walking onions sound much more fun. I’m going to set some in the solar tunnel borders this week and the rest in pots to be transplanted into outside borders the spring. I’m quickly discovering the bliss of the solar tunnel, with adequate heating during frosty patches the tunnel can extend the growing year by up to two months. Once established these onions can withstand subzero temperatures – Finland gets pretty cold in winter.
Incidentally, I bought mine on Ebay from Kaarina and would highly recommend this seller. She also sells Egyptian walking onion seed if you fancy being an Egyptian walking onion farmer. Now there’s a thought.
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