A wide variety of both culinary and ornamental plants are members of the genus Allium. Onion, garlic, chives, leeks, scallions, ramps are all representatives of the culinary type. As for ornamental types, the genus ranges from the little yellow Allium moly, the medium sized drumstick allium (great for cut flowers), and on up to the massive Globemaster with 10″ round heads!
I grow all of the varieties listed above, but the one I’m singling out for attention today is the Egyptian Walking Onion. Aside from having a very marketable common name, this onion also has the advantage of living up to is description. You see, it’s a top-setting onion. Look at this picture:
These bulbils bulk up to the point where the scape can no longer support their weight. Once the stalk bends down, and the bulbils are on the ground, they root – forming a new patch of walking onions. In this way, from year to year, the onions “walk” from place to place in the garden.
In botanical latin, the plant is Allium cepa var. proliferum. You could probably guess that the “proliferum” part of the latin name refers to this variety’s reproductive capacity, and you’d be right. Not only does the onion “walk”, but it also multiplies at the base, forming a clump of bulbs at the base of each onion. This means that once you have established a patch, you’re likely to be able to harvest from it regularly without ever having to replant. As a hardy perennial, you can just leave whatever you don’t eat in the ground over winter, and pick up harvesting again in spring.
The onion itself is mild, and flavored much like a shallot. The greens are a good flavor, and so are the top-setting bulbils, for that matter. Overall, it’s just a very interesting and productive plant that doesn’t need a whole lot of fussing. I generally take a whole bunch of bulbils off and pot them into 9cm pots for farmers market, so if you’re looking to try this one, let me know.