Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Perpetual Onions

Ok, so they're really called Potato Onions or Multiplier Onions, but my name gets to the heart of the matter.  These babies can supply your onion needs for ages.  All this without seeds.  My track record with onion seeds is rather deplorable, so any successful onion without seeds is great in my book.

I got these 18 months ago at a Harvest Fair at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.   There were tents set up from several places and Southern Seed Savers Exchange had potato onions.  I was a little worried that they wouldn't do well in my New England garden, but figured it was worth a try.  The first year they did well, but not spectacularly.  This year, they seem to have gotten more used to my climate.

The potato onions come as small onion bulbs.  They look much like an onion set from a seed seller.  The difference is that they are planted in the fall like garlic.  They actually work much like garlic.  The bulb is planted in the fall and mulched well.  Over the fall and winter, the bulbs divide and set roots.  By spring, you have multiple bulbs growing from the same place.


In this picture, you can see that it has divided into at least 5 plants.  I'll leave them like this until they start to die back.  They're harvested much like an ordinary onion.  You wait for the leaves to die back and then pull and cure.  The difference being that you save back some of the bulbs for replanting.  Years ago, these onions were the main crop for most families.  They were easy to grow and store.  SSE states that they've had the onions store for over a year, with great flavor.


The onions will send up a flower head.  They need to be pinched off to keep the onion focused on the bulb.  Mine started sending up flower heads in early April, so keep an eye on them.  If allowed to grow, they will form a huge and very pretty seed head.  I didn't realize that I needed to do this last year and many got away from me.

Right now in my garden, I'm trying to grow out enough bulbs to do a large planting this fall.  We probably won't eat many of the ones I'm growing right now.  Next year, if all goes according to plan, we'll have tons of our own onions that have been accustomed to our particular climate.  Since my garlic has been grown here for 4 years now, we should have a great stand of our own garlic and onions for years to come.

I am linking to the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and  Homestead Helps.

9 comments:

Daphne said...

My townhouse mates brought back some perennial onions I'm pretty sure they are potato onions. Maybe this fall I'll move some to the main garden.

The Mom said...

Daphne, I really like them. Of course, you do extremely well with onion seeds.

Wonderwoman said...

Great info on these onions! There is a woman that works with my MIL that has some. I'm trying to work out a trade :) for hostas.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through Countryside Families. I'm so glad for your info. on these onions. I received a bunch of them last year from a guy I bought taters from, he gave them to me for free! This year I see they are doing real well so far; now I know to watch for the seedhead. Thanks again, Maggie

The Mom said...

Wonderwoman, that sounds like a great trade to me. I'm a huge fan of trading and bartering.

Maggie, that's fantastic! Pinch those seed heads.

kitsapFG said...

I used to grow these and really liked them. Unfortunately, the seed stock started declining on me because it was too easy to eat more than we should and end up with less and less to plant each fall. I should purchase some new seed bulbs and start again with them though as they really were a reliable producer of small onions.

The Mom said...

Laura, I can see that happening. It has to a certain extent with my garlic. I think I'll be getting some seed garlic to enhance my planting this year. It's just so good!

Leigh said...

Thank you for this post! I planted multiplier last fall and so needed the rundown. Like you, my success rate with onion seeds ain't too hot. We love onions though so I'm hoping these will fit our bill.

The Mom said...

Leigh, if I never have to plant another onion seed, I'll be a happy girl!