I was talking with my friends — Mary, who is an excellent waitress at the Waffle Shop on North Atherton Street, and Tommy, who does the piano bar at the American Ale House plus a host of other interesting jobs — about the interesting Egyptian Walking Onion that I have growing in my garden, and I thought others might be interested too.
As their scientific name “Allium proliferum” states, these hardy little onions are prolific. Once you plant them in your garden you will have onions every year. Egyptian Walking Onions are also called Tree Onions, Egyptian Tree Onions, Top Onions, Winter Onions, Perennial Onions.
Egyptian Walking Onions are one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. The leaves poke up through the soil like little green spikes despite the frost or snow. The blue-green leaves are round and hollow and will grow up to 3 feet in height. At the end of the leaf stalk, a cluster of bulblets will begin to grow. These bulblets are also known as “bulbils” or “sets.” Every Egyptian Walking Onion plant will produce a cluster of sets at the top, hence the name, “Top Onion,” meaning they are top setting onions.
Egyptian Walking Onion top sets first appear in the early spring encased in a protective papery tunic, which has a curled tip like an elf’s shoe. As they grow, this papery capsule will tear open and eventually fall off. The top sets reach maturity in late summer. Many of them have little green sprouts and mini root nodules. When the sets become heavy enough, they will pull the plant over to the ground. If the soil conditions are right,