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Egyptian Walking Onion

Page history last edited by Jeff Lubell 1 year, 10 months ago

Planting Directions, Egyptian Walking Onions

Jeff Lubell, Norwich, VT


Initial Planting

In my opinion, the best time to pant Egyptian Walking Onion bulblets is mid-summer, as soon as the bulblets are harvested.  However, it’s fine to wait and plant later when space opens up.  Plant no later than when you plant garlic (mid-October or so).


First full year of growth

Your goal for this first full year of growth is to produce more topsets to expand your planting. In the spring, the plants will send up a flower stalk which will produce more topsets. When the topsets are full size, but before they start to dry, pull them off and replant them somewhere where they can stay for a season or two (see below). 


The topsets may have a stem growing out of them.  If so, you can replant the topset with the stem; sometimes it will survive, other times it won’t, perhaps depending on how much water you give them, but the plants will be OK either way.


You can use these topsets in a number of different ways:


To grow underground bulbs


To grow underground bulbs, plant the topsets about 4 inches apart immediately after they’ve reached full size.  Water them in for the first few days and then regularly thereafter.  In the spring of the next year, when the flower stalk reaches full size but before the bud opens, cut off the flower stalk and eat it (it’s great grilled or in a stir fry).  (You’ll need to leave some other plants to produce more topsets, so don’t cut off all of the topsets!)  When the topsets of other plants are ready to be picked, you can then dig up the onions that had their stalks cut off. I get 1 ½ inch bulbs this way.  If I leave them in for an extra season, they’re about 2 inches wide. 


The bulbs taste like shallots, but don’t store nearly as well.  I generally eat a bunch while curing them and eat the rest as soon as I can. 


If you fail to harvest them now, they will divide later in the season.  I have read that you can fold the leaves over at this time and tie them down, convincing the plants to be dormant, which will prevent the bulbs from splitting and allow you to harvest them later in the season, which can be helpful for extending their shelf life.  However, I have not tried this.


My plan going forward is to have one bed that I use for growing the topsets and another where I cut off the stems and grow for the bulbs like this:



Bed A

Bed B

Year 1

Plant topsets

Plant topsets

Year 2

Cut and eat flower stalks, then pull underground bulbs when topsets in Bed B are ready.

Don’t cut flower stalks.  Harvest topsets when ready and plant in Bed A.

Year 3

Don’t cut flower stalks. Harvest topsets when ready and plant in Bed B

Cut and eat flower stalks, then pull underground bulbs when topsets in Bed A are ready.

Years 4 and 5

Same as years 2 and 3

Same as years 2 and 3


You could also use this approach to rotate to new garden beds each year, which is probably the better approach if you have a rotation system going.  It’s possible and perhaps even likely that the bulb will be bigger if you cut the flower stalk off earlier, before it is at full size.  I don’t do this because I really like to eat the topsets, but it may be worth trying if you want to produce bigger bulbs.


To grow scallions


The plants can be harvested and used like scallions.  If you plan to do this, I’d suggest planting the topsets about 6 inches apart and then waiting to harvest until no earlier than the fall of the first full year of growth, after they’ve split into two (which happens shortly after the topsets mature). When left in the ground from season to season, the underground bulbs will divide and form new stems and get fairly crowded over time.  To use, you can either cut a stem off at the ground level, or use a sharp knife to cut down all the way to the roots and pull out the bottom part as well, which will help to lower the crowding and give you more of the white scallion stem to work with.  Just be sure to leave at least one stem in each clump so they can regrow. Remember to also cut off and use the flower stalks, as that’s one of the best features of this plant.  (Of course, you’ll need to leave some plants to produce topsets if you want to expand the planting or use to grow underground bulbs.)


In my garden at least, the plants that overwinter will have a layer of dead leaves around the outside of the scallion in early spring. Just take this off and eat the green scallion that is inside.


To grow for topsets and flower stalks


Some people grow the plants just for the topsets, which can be used like pearl onions.  I don’t do this so don’t know what spacing is ideal, but you might as well do 6 inches and have the option of pulling them as scallions if needed.  The topsets can be used without peeling them if pulled right after they reach full size. If left on the stalk, they will dry out and form a husk and will need to be peeled.


If you don’t want to produce topsets, the flower stalks can be cut under any of the growing methods. They are one of my first veggies of the year and a great bonus crop!  They are hollow and much more tender than garlic scapes, so are more versatile, in my view.


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