If you want to both eat some in the spring and use some decoratively, it is best to grow them in two spots. The decorative ones you leave alone. After they have bloomed, they will produce seeds, which you can use to start the next spring crop for the table.
The decorative ones require hardly any maintenance. They are perennial and can be left on their own. You might have to remove a few plants if they get too crowded. I got mine many years ago from my friend Gwenned Brundrett – how more Welsh can a name be than Gwenned?
and Allium proliferum which is
supposed to be a hybrid between the Welsh and the common onion. We also used it
as a green onion in spring. But it eventually makes a good sized bulb at the
base, which can be used in the fall as a regular cooking onion (a rather strong
one). At Roche Fleurie, they are slightly later than the Welsh ones. This
timing works out perfectly well as we first use the Welsh onions and then move
on to the Egyptians.
|Egyptian Onion in early April|
As the Latin name (proliferum) implies, they are very prolific. Contrarily to fistulosum, proliferum produces bulbs, lots of bulbs. You plant these bulbs anytime from spring to late summer and eat the leaves as green onions in the spring. Later in the season, at the end of leaves you have not eaten, instead of a flower are bunches of small bulbs which you can plant for next spring. I have heard that some people pickle these marble-sized bulbs. Apparently, if you tie the stem to a light stake, it will make more than one head of bulblets. I have never tried it.
They are also known as tree onions and walking onions. The latter name is perhaps more descriptive as they spread like the walking fern – the tip, heavy with bulbs, falls to the ground from which new plants grow. They are very tough. I got my original stock from Larkwhistle, the most famous garden in the Bruce peninsula. I tucked them in the grass (we did not yet have a garden here), and years later I found them doing very well, having managed to survive being choked by weeds.
Neither onion is Welsh or Egyptian. Apparently, the name Welsh preserves the meaning of the old English "welisc" meaning foreign: the plants actually originated in
for the Egyptian onion, it might have been brought to Europe
by gypsies, hence the name Egyptian.
A very simple way to eat these onion greens is with pasta.
You fry a few mushroom slices in oil. When they are nice and brown, add some Welsh or Egyptian (or both) onions green cut into small pieces. You can also add a few small pieces of garlic green, as the new crop of garlic is now about the same size as the Welsh onion, and even some leeks, if you have some left from the previous fall (you need very little).
Fry all this with the mushrooms, but not very long, just long enough to mix the flavours.
Add to your linguine or other pasta with some olive oil and voilà!
You can also add some pumpkin seeds or a few walnuts to increase the proteins. Instead of Parmesan cheese, you can spread on top of your noodles a mixture of good-tasting nutritional yeast with sunflower seeds which you have ground together with salt and a bit of nutmeg (in a coffee grinder designated for such work).
The proverb “A stitch in time saves nine” is just as true when you rephrase it as “A weed pulled in time saves nine”. A far as weeds are concerned, “in time” in our climate means November and April. These are usually, cold wet and windy months but weeds are much easier to pull out in these two months, and half an hour of weeding in spring or late fall produces better results than at least two hours of weeding in June.