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.