Sunday, 19 April 2009

Egyptian Walking Onions

I'm loving all the suggestions for topics for me to write about. If nothing else, it's an indicator of what people like to read or would like to see more of. That can only be helpful for me because no matter how much we say we write for ourselves, on some level, we do all write in the hope that others like to read our stuff, don't we?

So keep them coming, if you can and I'll get Sean to pick a winner tomorrow night.

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So today, before I started to feel a bit unwell in the afternoon, I made a discovery in my garden. A long time ago, my father in law, also a keen gardener, gave me some little onion bulbs, tiny little things he delivered to me in a jar and said to plant them. I did.

I've never fully understood what they were. He kept calling them different names and I was generally confused. So I just let them go in the patch up the back. Sometimes I cut them off at the base and used the tops like the green parts of shallots. And they'd grow back, like this.

Egyptian Walking Onions - shoots

It never really occurred to me to dig up the onion bulbs themselves, swelling as they were under the surface and bulging out. I thought if I dug them up, I'd lose the tasty green tops and be left with nothing, so I left them. The patch, over the last couple of years has gotten huge. And once a year or so the tops swell, looking every bit to me like pregnant shallots.

Egyptian walking onions - tops

The next stage is for the tops to explode into bunches of mini-onions sitting on the top of the green stem. They grow and grow until they look like fully sized onions that start to sprout.

Egyptian Walking Onions - bulbs on top

Eventually, these bulbs all become so heavy that the great tall stems fall over and those bulbs, with their little green shoots growing out, start the next part of the life cycle. But I only found this out today when I did a bit of googling and found out that what I have in my garden are Egyptian Walking Onions. So called because of the way the plants fall over under the weight of the top bulbs. They are also called Tree Onions.

I was so taken with the name that I regretted at once that I had pulled them all out today. Every single one. I was just making space. I was just tired of not really knowing what they were.

Egyptian Walking Onions sound so exotic! And the edible bulbs under the surface are apparently delicately sweet salad style onions, or pickling onions. How could I have ignored these for so long?

Feeling bad about the initial plan I'd had of composting the lot, I set about saving them.

The massive, somewhat daunting pile was a knotted, root bound bunch, covered in dirt. I separated them all out.

Egyptian Walking Onions - with soil

After that, I washed them all and spread them out on wire racks to dry in the sun.

Egyptian Walking Onions - drying

At the end of the day, when the sun had vanished, we transferred the wire racks into the shed where they'll stay for some time, drying out as regular onions do. And somehow, I have to work out to get more of them because even though I've never been entirely sure about them, I suddenly feel their absence from the veggie patch and will miss them terribly, especially now that I actually know more about them.

And finally, I also dug up some overgrown catmint plants.

cat and catmint

While the plants were sitting on the grass waiting for me to dispose of them, this rather friendly and handsome ginger cat wandered into the yard. He's visited before but I don't think he's ever had a treat like that. Normally he races into the yard and dashes out again, but after sniffing and nibbling the catmint for a while, he simply sauntered off, all happy and relaxed. We thought Julie would find this Stoner Kitty amusing!

So that's my garden update. Never thought I'd devote a whole post to onions, but there you go. With a name like that, I couldn't resist.