Kristi Cook

perennial onions

Of all the pantry staples we grow on our homestead, producing a year-long supply of onions evaded me for many years. Not only do I tend to forget where I plant those spring onion sets as the garden grows, but I inevitably set out too few. Then a few will rot, others will be given away, and still others simply disappear (onion eating moles?). Finally, I had a eureka moment as I observed my perennial planting of asparagus and decided to try my hand at perennial onions. And I am so glad I did. These little gems produce onions throughout most of the winter and into early spring, perfectly filling the gaps left by my spring plantings of common onions. As an added bonus, they reproduce every year and stay in one place — much like my asparagus.

Common vs. Perennial

Most onions grown in home gardens are biennials, often referred to as the common onion. These are the little bunches of baby onions (or onion sets) usually found in wooden crates at the big box stores in early spring. Holes are dug; sets are plopped in. Within a couple of weeks, onion greens pop up signaling that it’s time to enjoy green onions. However, the patient gardener who foregoes this early spring treat is rewarded within a couple of months with varying sizes of onion bulbs ready for eating or winter storage. This cycle repeats itself every year with newly purchased bundles of onion sets.

onion greens
Fresh from the garden onion greens gracing the Christmas table are just one of the many benefits of perennial onions.

Not so with perennial onions. Usually planted in fall — or even early winter — onion greens are harvested throughout the cold winter months as individual greens are clipped from the growing plants (and occasionally in summer, depending on the variety) while bulbs are typically left in the ground to multiply into still more onions during the first year. Once established, bulbs may be dug up and enjoyed with dinner or stored for winter meals. To keep the perennial aspect of these onions intact, several bulbs are then set aside to create an ample supply for replanting the following year. Even better, depending on where you garden, most varieties may be left in the ground year round allowing for impromptu harvesting as the need arises, and divided once every few years.

11/11/2018 8:37:47 AM

Hi there - can perennial leeks be found in the US? Or, any advice on how to find perennial leeks? Thanks!

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