Plant Perennial Onions for Extended Harvests
Years ago I purchased a little pot of Egyptian Walking Onions for my garden. There were 3 or 4 little plants in the pot and I was tempted to buy more to be sure I’d have enough. It only took one season for those little onions to take over a whole section of my garden. Since then I’ve had all the onions I can possibly use from early spring to late fall. I’ve given onion starts to many friends and I’ve even resorted to tossing some in the compost pile. Holy canary, do those things multiply!
You can also hunt down several other types of perennial alliums that will provide you with extended harvests. The Multiplier Onion, Welsh Onion, garlic, and chives provide flavor for your foods from spring through fall in my northern climate. There is a real sense of independence gained when snipping green onions or chives to top your wild greens and game in the spring. Best of all, you can plant them and dig or chop what you need without having to buy new bulbs or seeds each year to provide you with food. These are perfect plants for a permiculture garden!
The Almighty Allium
Egyptian Walking Onions belong to the Allium family. That family includes garlic, onions, chives, multiplier onions, and a host of other wild and cultivated plants. All of these plants contain a chemical called allicin, which has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Some research suggests that these pungent plants also have anti-cancer properties as well. Talk about a travelling medicine cabinet! Plant these healthy roots in your permiculture garden for future doses of your own medicine. In addition, the onion family is rich in vitamin C, B6, fiber, and antioxidants. Perennial onions contain a healthy dose of these helpful phytochemicals and they have a pungent onion flavor that is great for cooking or eating fresh.
Growing Egyptian Walking Onions
Perennial onions are easy to grow, in fact, they’ll plant themselves! Each onion will form a cluster of bulbils at the top of a woody stalk. As these bulbils grow and increase in weight, the stalk will fall over and the little bulbils will root in the soil. How easy is that? They are very low care, requiring only sunlight, soil, and water. A little compost every now and then will keep them happy, but isn’t really necessary for decent crops. They have done really well in heavy clay soil with, ahem, tons of weeds in my garden in years when I was super busy. They have survived scorching drought and soggy monsoon seasons too. I’d almost bet these things are indestructible. At various times I’ve picked the little bulbils to give away or plant when I got around to it, only to forget them in a bag in the tool shed. I’ll be darned if they didn’t survive for well over a month like that. Seriously, these things will be feeding the cockroaches after a nuclear winter.
I like to separate the bulbils and plant them in a row in the garden to use as green onions. I chop them in salads, soups, and tacos for instant flavor. As they get larger, each onion will start to form a tough stalk that will produce another cluster of bulbils for your next crop of green onions. That same onion will produce more onion ‘bulbs’ at its base that you can use like winter storage onions. They don’t form a large, single bulb like the typical onion you buy in the store, but they can be used the same way. In fact, every part of this plant is edible, although that woody stalk is pretty tough.
Storing Your Perennial Onions
You can dig these onions and put them in a root cellar for quite awhile. A month or two will be no problem, although they might get a little shriveled. Plant the roots in some soil in your root cellar and keep it moist to prolong the keeping qualities. I’ve frozen and dehydrated them with no blanching or extra care taken. They may be canned in salsa, soups, stews, and chili with a pressure canner. Pickle your onions in your own homemade vinegar for a healthy snack. Heck, you can even pile some leaves or straw over them in the garden and harvest them for months after the first frost. In milder climates you should be able to harvest all winter long.
Dry your own onions in a solar food dehydrator or over a warm wood stove. Finely dice onion bulbs and chop greens into small pieces and arrange in a single layer in the dehydrator. Remove as much moisture as possible, so they are crispy, for the best keeping qualities. You can store your dried onions like this for years if you use the oven canning method. To make onion powder for recipes, pulse dried onions in a food processor until very fine or crush with a mortar and pestle.
Dried Onion Soup Mix
¼ cup dried onions
4 Beef bouillon cubes, crumbled (or 4 tsp of powdered beef bouillon)
2 tsp powdered onion
¼ tsp ground celery seed
¼ tsp salt (or to taste)
Sprinkle of pepper
Add 4 cups boiling water. Stir and steep for 5 minutes. Serves 4. Use in place of 1 package of onion soup mix in recipes. This soup mix makes a great seasoning for wild game and meat dishes. You can leave out the bouillon and use chicken or beef broth in place of the water.
Plant Now, Survive Later
Egyptian Walking Onions are available through a variety of seed catalogs and nurseries. Get started on your very own patch of prolific perennial onions now so you have them established for difficult times ahead. You won’t want to live on onions alone, so of course you’ll need to plant other perennial plants to eat with those wonderful onions! Don’t wait until the SHTF to get started on your permiculture survival garden!