If you love fresh green onions, and have difficulty finding them in winter, you can easily grow green onion microgreens quickly indoors, without a trip to the grocer. Just plant the small bulblets, water, place in a sunny spot, and let nature do the rest. This type of onion is recommended for everyone!
Early Utah pioneers used them for seasoning and sustenance. The top set onions are a highly rated survival food, and they are easily grown in containers. Walking onions are a great conversation piece, and can be easily shared with friends and neighbors.
The secret to having fresh green onions in January is found in a prolific, hardy variety of onion named the Egyptian Walking Onion, Allium proliferum. The onion produces top sets, which form bulbils, that bend over and replant themselves at the end of the growing season.
In the fall, gather and store the smaller topsets containing bulbils in the refrigerator, or in a cool, dark place. Replant the larger bulbs outside; they will continue to grow, even underneath the snow. Keep the stored bulbs at a steady temperature, so they won’t sprout to early; and don’t water until you are ready to plant. Watering before planting makes the bulbs soggy.
Microgreens and Beyond
In mid-winter, take the small bulblets out of refrigeration, and separate the bulbs from the top sets.
Prepare the planting container, and ensure it has adequate drainage. Place at least 3in of soil mix in the container, to allow the roots to establish themselves.
For an inexpensive container, use plastic milk jugs. You may leave the handle on for easy transport, or if you need to save space, cut off the top of the container, and use the bottom for planting. Important: Punch drainage holes in the bottom of milk jug before cutting!
Next, plant the bulbs. Don’t be afraid to pack them in; allow some room between bulbs. Plant the bulblets with the pointed top up similar to planting a tulip, and then cover lightly; it is ok if the tops poke out of the soil a bit.
After cutting the fresh greens once or twice for tasty, fresh microgreens, plant them outside in March for a continual supply. Don’t overcut, because the plants need the tops for sustained growth. These hearty onions fare well in containers too; you will be surprised at the results. Harden them off for a bit before moving them outside to their permanent home, to give them time to adjust to the temperature and sunlight change. Cover and/or mulch the green tops if a hard freeze is expected soon after planting; they will adjust to the cold. You may never have to buy green onions again!
Once the onions are established outside, you can cut and dry the green onions or continue to use them fresh. The onion bulbs in the ground can be used fresh, or dried and powdered for long term storage. In fall, the top sets of bulbs bend over and touch the ground, starting the cycle of growth over again. The onions grow greens even under the snow; they can also be covered, or planted in a cold frame for extra early or late harvests. The underground bulbs increase and divide; they may also be replanted, and are a very good fresh onion, although they do not store well, and are best stored in the ground.
Egyptian Walking Onions are hardy for USDA zones 3-9, and prefer full sun. Plants are easily established, and grow to full size the second year. Water during dry spells; and fertilize lightly. I have found some of the largest onions were grown in pots, benefitting from rich soil, less competition, excellent drainage, and regular watering on the porch or patio. Planting the microgreen bulblets into pots the first year is recommended. These onions are tough; they are one of the few plants that can grow near black walnuts.
Keep the growing cycle going, and enjoy fresh, healthy onions year-round!