Saturday, September 13, 2014

Walking, onions, and walking onions

One of the nicest gifts I've been given this year (in a ridiculously competitive field, let me tell you) was a 10kg sack of brown onions. Those onions came into my life late in May, and they kept us in onioniness right up until early September, when the last few began to sprout and I had to eat them quickly before they had a chance to win me over, get me planting them out under the Granny Smith, giving them names, and knitting them scarves.

I do grow an onion, of a sort. It's the Egyptian walking fellow. In Summer, he sends up a stalk laden with bulbils; the bulbils grow in the air, weigh the stalk down, make contact with the ground and start putting down roots - voila! new onions! It's a pretty nifty arrangement, saves raising onions from seed blahedy-blah, but, alas, it's not doing anything for my immediate onion supply: the Egyptian walkings are busily enjoying the Spring, with nary a thought of fattening their bulbs.

This year's Egyptian walking onions of insouciance, demonstrating their capacity to chillax in the presence of Esme, if not to produce appreciable bulbs.

Happily, it just so happens to be the Season of Ubiquitous edible Onion Weed. By onion weed I don;t mean the pretty but otherwise pointless so-called onion weed with which I grew up in the wilde of NSW (Nothoscordum inodorum or Allium neapolitanum, nothing to write home about on the gastronomy front), but, rather, the delicious, faintly garlicky, and plentiful Allium triquetrum, or three-cornered leek, growing rampantly along the banks of a Merri Creek tributary near you (or me, more to the point).

Free-range onion weed.

While they don't have the world's enormousest oniony bit, the greens are like a particularly lovely mild shallot. I pulled up a clump from a nearby weedarium yesterday, and whizzed them, leaves, roots, flowers and all, with chickpeas, cumin, chilli, coriander and salt to make falafels. They've made their way into kale & tempeh cook-ups (oh yeah, I sure know how to party), lentil surprises (ditto), and been chopped into potato mash. There's a recipe floating around somewhere for tempura-battered onion weed flowers, which sounds like a dangerous dish to get fond of, but - on the other hand - the onion weed season is brief and the fried stuff is delicious.

In other matters alliumnal, I've got a wicking box full of King Richard leeks on the go. I've been so proud of the way they were growing, my plucky leeks, and then this morning, as we were nearing the end of our 15km creek-side walk from home to CERES (just thought I'd mention that in passing, our 15km walk to breakfast at CERES ... did I say it was 15 kilometres? before breakfast?), we stumbled across the Merri Creek market garden, and spied these beauties that make my leeks look like puny blades of grass.

 Intimidatingly good-looking leeks, buried up to their shoulders and everything.

So that put me in my place. Some kind of leek farmer I am. On the other hand, we came home with half a bagful of free onion weed, so spem in allium.*

* an incredibly sophisticated pun (punion!) on "spem in alium". Vastly improved by this footnote. Or, you know, not.


  1. 10kg sack of onions as a pressie - be still my beating heart! That's a true friend right there. Onion weed looks good - i grow welsh onion (allium fistulosum), which fills the same green oniony spring gap. It's perennial too, so zero effort once you've got a clump going.

  2. I had never even heard of walking onion (endless ignorance) and now I am lusting after it. Megathanks.
    Fifteen k walk for breakfast? Awe inspiring. And no doubt soul soothing.

  3. I know, Asparagus Pea - what a great present. Allium fistulosum looks like what I call spring onions, or the cut-and-come-again onion of excellence (as in: you chop off the 90% of the shoot, and it grows back ... though come to think of it, you can do that with leeks too). I'm also relying a bit on our ornamental society garlic, which supplies green strappy chive-like leaves all year, and pretty pink onion-flavoured flowers in late Spring-Autumn.

  4. Elephant's Child, I'd love to send you some walking onion bulbils to sow, when they're ready. Or if you want to plant them in ridiculous bulk, the nursery I got 'em from is this 'un:

    1. I would love that. Ridiculous bulk is the way I plant quite a lot of things but perhaps I should be (a bit) more restrained.

  5. Excellento. Will let you know when the time comes for non-ridiculous-bulk shipments of walking onion bulbs.