I think it’s safe to say gardeners across the board have a special relationship with edible perennials! As the first plants emerge, so does a gardeners’ spring spirit. Among these perennials are the Egyptian Walking Onion. It is a different sort of onion, but in a good way! Like all onions, the entire plant is edible but you will have much earlier harvests starting in early spring. Instead of forming flowers at the top of their stems like most onion types to seed themselves, these plants form what I like to call “bulblets”, or groupings of tiny bulbs. Being the heaviest part of the plant, they weigh down the stalks and seed themselves a few inches away from the mother plant they grew from. Hence the name “walking onions”!
When eaten raw, they have a very sharp, spicy onion flavor. To eat them you can use the solid bottoms the same way you would use scallions, by chopping up and using them fresh in salads, or, for a more mild flavor, caramelize and serve with your favorite meat and veggies! The hollow tops can be used the same way you would use green onions or chives. So far my favorite way to eat them is to caramelize and serve on top of homemade toast with a fried egg. Absolutely delicious!
Aside from being tasty and being one of the first plants to pop up in spring, one of my favorite things about the Egyptian Walking Onion is how the plants themselves represent an organic work of art in the garden. They are indeed unique to look at, and I always get compliments and questions about them when people visit! That is one of the most wonderful things about gardening; The ability to share, to learn, and to be inspired to try new things. The first time I was ever introduced to this plant was when I was helping an elderly woman weed her gardens. As payment for helping her, she allowed me to dig up some Irises of hers, and in addition to those I ended up with the incredible Egyptian Walking Onions that grow in my garden now.
If you let them, these plants will literally walk across your garden and continue to do so every year. As you can see from the photos, I choose to keep mine contained in a raised bed and I re-planted the bulblets from last year in the spaces that were left in the bed. This year I might have to start another garden bed for more, as mine appears to be filling out quite nicely and I like to leave an inch or so between plants.
If you happen to come across one of these in someone’s garden, ask them if it would be okay to take some bulblets home to plant for yourself! You can also divide the clumps at the base of the mother plant to propagate if you prefer, or dig up and re-plant the entire thing. Egyptian Walking Onions are so much fun to grow and it’s great to have a perennial onion to harvest for meals in early Spring and throughout the entire growing season up until it snows!