A couple of years ago a friend gave me some Walking Onions. A plant of many names, they are also known as: Egyptian Walking Onions, Mennonite Walking Onions, Tree Onions, Egyptian Tree Onions, Top Onions, Winter Onions, or Perennial Onions. Their proper name is Allium proliferum (or Allium cepa var. proliferum, depending on who you ask) and they do proliferate!
Hardy to zone 4, these onions start producing juicy bright green leaves very early in spring. Even before my chives awaken they are giving me crisp green onions for my winter salads.
As they grow, a small white bump at the top becomes a clump of little papery-skinned bulbils or topsets, hence the name top or tree onions. When these topsets become heavy enough the stalks topple over and given half a chance the sets root and grow away from the parent plant. If they are left to continue this cycle they will “walk” across your garden.
This sounds a little alarming but I’ve not found them at all invasive, they are so tasty that I can keep them under control easily; in fact I’ve taken to pulling the clumps of bulbils apart (they are usually in clusters containing 2-30 bulbils) and strewing them around to encourage them.
Sometimes the cluster of bulbils will sprout leaves, and even a second layer of topsets, they are rather bizarre and variable plants!
Every part of the plant can be eaten. The shallot-like onions produced at the base of the plant, the green leaf stalks and the bulbils at the top are all tasty, with a good oniony kick. And because the plant is actively growing through most of the year (where I live) I almost always have a fresh source of onion!
I have found some onions challenging to grow but not these babies! And I like plants that are easy to grow, especially if they are tasty to boot. There will always be a place in my new garden for walking onions.