Decades ago I came across a strange looking onion plant. It was about 3 feet tall and had a stiff stem with numerous little onion sets (bulbils) growing at the top.
There was someone with me, although I don’t remember who. But she mentioned as we walked past the plant that the little onion sets at the top were good to pickle.
I was starting to grow bulbing onions at the time and was not the least bit interested in growing little onions to pickle. So I didn’t ask for, want, or receive any additional information on the plant. (Shame on me.) And due to ignorance of the facts about this onion, I totally ignored it for decades.
Several years ago I received a few free bulbils with something else I ordered. Planted them and promptly forgot them. Most likely they were harvested as spring onions.
Fortunately this year I accidentally discovered a website that awakened me to the immeasurable value of this onion and information needed to be successful in growing them. I’ll give you the link at the end of the post.
What it Looks Like and its Various Names
In the picture below organic and non-gmo”Allium proliferum” (the scientific name) grows in a field in Washington state. Tracy, the grower, calls this the candlestick stage. The little white papery sacks house the sets that are forming.
A special thank you to Tracy for granting permission for me to use her photo.
They’re a type of multiplying onions.
Depending on where you live they’re also commonly known as walking onions, Egyptian onions, the Medusa onion, topset onions, tree onions, winter onions or perennial onions.
Why are they of value?
- They’re Perennial
They’re a perennial onion! Yippee! That means they’ll live in my garden all year long. (Tracy said she’s had them survive temperatures of -24ºF below zero!)
- They Multiply Underground
The onion growing underground will multiply and can produce 6 to 10 more onions at the base of the plant. Harvest all but one. Leave that to multiply again for more onions. (Or move one to another place to start another clump.)
- The bulbils can grow and produce more plants.
Bulbils that form on top of the stiff stalk in late spring or early summer can range from 1/4 inch to 1 inch in diameter. They reach maturity in late summer. If left to fall over and touch the ground, they’ll root and grow where they fall.
Or – you can harvest them and plant in another bed.
Or – you can pickle them.
- Once you have them started – you’ll have them indefinitely – so that’s one thing you won’t have to buy.
Things to note about topsets
*** It’s my understanding from various other sources that topsets don’t store well. And one source mentioned that if they dry out – they won’t grow. In my opinion it would be best to plant while the sets are fresh. But if you have to hold them be sure to read the information Tracy provides.
(And yes, I’ll provide the link at the end of the post.)
***Larger bulbils (the topsets) have a better chance of producing a plant that will produce topsets its first year. It’s likely that topsets will be produced by most of the new plants in their second year.
My Suggestion for Planting Depth
In Tracy’s information she recommends planting bulbils at a depth of 2 inches. My guess is it’s because of the cold winters in Washington state. (Colder temperatures usually require deeper planting depths for alliums.)
Here in Virginia I plant my bulbing onions, my potato onions, my garlic, and my shallots at a depth of 1 inch.
When I plant the bulbils I ordered from Tracy I’l plant some at 2 inches as she recommended and some at 1 inch. I’ll do this just as a precaution but I feel confident 1 inch will be just fine here in Virginia.
So – How Could This Onion Possibly Save Someone’s Life?
It’s hard for most Americans to imagine what it’s like not to have food to eat and not be able to get any. And it’s hard for most of us to even entertain the thought that severe food shortages will most likely be experienced throughout the United States.
But if you’ve been listening to sources that tell you the truth about what’s happening in our country – being hungry is something that you and your family could well experience unless you take steps to prepare.
Knowing how to grow your food can make a big difference. But even then, growing seasons in most places don’t last that long.
It “could” make a big difference to have something in the garden that you could harvest all winter – especially if the ground is not frozen.
Onions are very nutritious and provide many things our bodies need.
If you’ve educated yourself on what it takes to live through a survival situation – you might welcome this perennial onion into your garden as a part of your plan to make it through whatever comes.
If you’re well prepared this perennial will only enhance what you have on hand. If you’re not well prepared — it could keep you alive.
The website I found and the link to it I promised
The young woman who grows these onions has provided a wealth of information on her website. And what I love most about that is it’s from her own experience.
I urge you to take advantage of what she’s made available to you through her website. https://www.egyptianwalkingonion.com
Tracy was kind enough to give me permission to use the picture at the beginning of the post of her beautiful onions in the candlestick phase.
I’m always interested in how people find my site. Thus, if you decide to order bulbils from Tracy, I’m sure she too would appreciate knowing how you found her. And I’m delighted you can tell her you found her via TendingMyGarden.com.
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