Egyptian walking onions are very strange. As youngsters, they grow very much like scallions. But as teenagers, they develop lumps on their green hollow leaves, bulges that produce tiny red bulblets which, in turn, produce leaves, which then go on to produce more bulges and bulblets. When the leaves become too heavy to support themselves they droop down, allowing the formerly airborne bulblets to touch ground and begin growing as new plants. This is how they “walk” across the garden.
I planted bulblets from last year’s onions in August. They grew heartily, supplying scallion-like onions all through winter. As the weather warmed this spring, the leaves began to bulge into the next generation. I’ll harvest the new bulblets to start the cycle over again.
Egyptian Walking Onions are also known as topset onions, tree onions and perennial onions. All parts of the plant are edible. The hollow green leaves can be used just like scallions, as can the young onions. They are hotter, spicier than scallions. If left in the ground to continue growing, the bulb at the base of the plant can be used as a regular onion. Mine have never developed large enough underground bulbs to make using them worth while. That’s probably because we eat them before they have a chance to become really large.
We have a large clump living in the mulch under the persimmon tree. Perhaps later this summer I’ll pull them up to see what the underground bulbs are like.
Plant the topset bulblets 1/2 to 1 inch deep, a couple of inches apart, keep them watered and you’ll have scallions year round. Be sure not to harvest all. Let some make topsets for planting to keep the crop going.
These weird onions are actually quite attractive. Plant them in floral borders, or pot them on the porch among the petunias.They are also very hardy, growing through winter here in western Washington as if it were just another day in paradise.
Here’s a good article on how to grow these onions. It suggests that you can braid the bulbs like garlic. Perhaps we’ll try that this year.
Since we use these onions like scallions in recipes, we’ve never tried anything else. But if you are interested, here’s a recipe just for these onions. Let me know if you try this!
Pickled Egyptian Onions
Sunset Magazine 1993
1 cup Egyptian onion bulblets (about 1/2 in. wide)
2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
(or 1/2 cup rice vinegar plus 3 tbsp. sugar, and salt to taste)
Separate bulblets, trim ends, peel, rinse, and drain. In a 1 to 2 quart pan, combine bulblets and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil, uncovered, for 1 minute. Pour into a wide- mouthed jar; cover. Cool, and chill at least 1 day or up to 1 month. Makes 1 cup.