Walking Onion Guardians:
case you didn't know, cats are the guardians of Egyptian Walking
Onions! Cats (mostly Jellicle cats) like to walk among the tall
onion stalks in an Egyptian Walking Onion garden. They sniff and
survey the plants and take note of the growth progress. Cats will
ensure that prairie voles will not chew the roots off the bottom
of the bulbs. Cats will keep the rabbits from clipping off the
stalks and leaves. Maybe this phenomenon stems back to ancient
Egypt where both onions and cats were held sacred. Be sure to
plant an occasional catnip
bush among your Egyptian Walking Onion patch as an offering to
the guardians of your garden!
guards his Egyptian Walking Onion patch.
partakes of the catnip while on patrol
in her Egyptian Walking Onion garden.
Majesty, Wotsie, sits amidst her garden of
catnip and Egyptian Walking Onions.
Cattamagoo is one of the newest guardians of the
Egyptian Walking Onions. He is pictured here on a pile
old dried up Egyptian Walking stalks. He is looking for
any good, viable bulbs for planting that might
have been missed while sorting.
and when to plant your Egyptian Walking Onion topsets:
each individual "topset" in the soil about 2 inches
deep. Soil should be slightly moist and well drained. Onions hate
wet feet.... or do they? I threw a bunch of topsets on the ground
one autumn and the winter that followed was very wet with flooding
conditions. The topsets were under 2 inches of water. In February
they began to sprout and grow despite their wet feet.
Plant your topsets or bulbs in rows about 2 feet apart. The sets
should be spaced approximately 1 foot apart in each row. Plant
in full sunlight. Partial shade is ok too, but full sun is the
best for optimal growth. Egyptian Walking Onion sets can also
be planted in clusters. When planted this way they make a great
addition to your herb garden. They can even be planted in pots
to be kept outside or indoors. They can be planted any time of
the year, even in the winter as long as the ground isn't frozen
or covered with snow. However, fall is the optimal time to plant
them so they can develop a strong root system and be ready for
good growth the following spring. NOTE: Egyptian Walking Onion
topsets when planted, typically will not produce their own topsets
during their first year of growth (although I have seen the "jumbo"
topsets produce tiny topsets their first year). Topsets will grow
during the plant's second year and every year thereafter. The
following is a list of what to expect when planting your sets
at different times of the year:
in the spring:
is a good time to plant your Egyptian Walking onion topsets. The
topsets will grow throughout the spring and summer and develop
tall green leaves and bulb/root growth in the ground. Since it
is the plant's first growing season, it will probably not produce
topsets, unless it is a huge (jumbo) topset.
in the summer:
planted at this time will grow roots and leaves, and have some
onion bulb development in the ground, but they will not produce
in the fall:
is the optimum time to plant your Egyptian Walking Onion
topsets. Topsets planted at this time will grow roots and leaves
only. The leaves will die back when winter sets in. The topset
will develop into a small onion bulb in the ground and store enough
energy to carry itself through the winter. A leaf will reemerge
in late winter/early spring, and the plant will grow throughout
the spring and summer to maturity. More than likely, there will
be no topset growth the first summer, but some plants have produced
topsets their first summer after planting in the fall.
you know that Allium bulbs, such as the Egyptian Walking Onion,
are among the best bulbs to plant in the fall?
to plant in the fall include: Alliums, Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinth,
Snowflakes, Starflowers, Grape Hyacinth, Scilla, Dutch Iris,
Garlic, Lilies, Bearded Iris, Daylilies, Peonies, Lycoris, Fritillaria,
Oriental Poppies, Foxtail Lilies, etc.
in the winter:
Yes! You can plant Egyptian Walking Onion topsets in the winter
as long as the soil is not frozen. If you can dig a 2" deep
hole in the soil, then you can plant your sets. The topsets will
not grow much at all - maybe a little bit of root growth only,
unless you live where the winters are mild. If this is the case,
you might also get a leaf. When planting in the winter, mulching
is a good idea. In fact, mulching is good practice at any time
of the year. Mulching keeps the weeds down, prevents unnecessary
water evaporation and erosion, and fertilizes your plants.
by Nature: Unharvested topsets that are left to
lie on the ground will self-sew. No planting necessary, they will
grown on their own. Of course this will only happen if the conditions
for growth are right. Optimum conditions include bare soil (no
grass) and plenty of moisture.
mature bulbs: Plant
mature bulbs so that the roots are down into the soil. The bulb
itself should be planted to a depth of at least half way up the
bulb. The bottom half of the bulb should be burried in the ground.
to Harvest Your Egyptian Walking Onions:
In mid to late summer, and autumn, the topsets may be harvested.
The optimal time to pluck off the topsets is when the stalk has
dried and turned brown. More than likely, it has fallen over by
this time. Be sure to remove any topsets that have fallen to the
ground if you do not want them to self-sow in their new locations.
Despite their name, these plants are very easy to control and
keep from spreading just by harvesting the topsets. You can eat,
plant, share, or store your Egyptian Walking Onion topsets. If
you want to store them, they need to stay in dark, cold, and dry
conditions (more about this later).
The greens (leaves) may be cut and harvested at any time of the
year. Just harvest one or two leaves from each plant. Be careful
not to cut the stalk that has the topsets. Soon after you have
harvested the leaves from an Egyptian Walking Onion plant, new
leaves will start to grow in their place which can be harvested
again. If you live in a mild climate, your Egyptian Walking Onion
plant may produce greens all year round. In the fall after the
topsets have matured and fallen to the ground, or after they have
been harvested, new greens will start to grow - yummy!
the onion bulbs in the ground:
The onions at the base of the plant that are growing in the ground
can be harvested in late summer and fall. Be sure to leave some
onions in the ground for next year's crop. An Egyptian Walking
Onion bulb is about the same size and shape as a shallot. Bigger
bulbs may be obtained by cutting off the topsets before they develop.
That way the plant can put its energy into the onion bulb in the
ground instead of into the topsets. To get bigger bulbs, keep
the clumps thinned out to 2-8 plants per clump. If you do not
divide and replant (or harvest) your clumps in the fall, the clumps
will get bigger and bigger with many bulbs and they will be small.
Note: if you harvest the onion bulb in the ground, you will destroy
the plant - it will not grow back next year. So, if you want to
eat the onion bulbs in the ground, make sure to replace them by
planting topsets, or offsets from the bulb (divisions).
to eat your Egyptian Walking Onions:
Walking Onions taste just like a regular onion, only with a bit
more pizzazz! The entire plant can be eaten. Shallot-like onions
form at the base in the soil. They can be eaten and prepared just
like any other onion or shallot. The hollow greens may be chopped
to eat like chives or green onions (scallions). They are excellent
when fried, cooked in soups, or raw in salads (my favorite). The
topsets are excellent when peeled and fried. You can even pickle
them like pearl onions. Or just pop them in your mouth like popcorn!
Watch out, they're a little spicy!
potato, sour cream, and chopped green scallions
made from Egyptian Walking Onion greens
photo courtesy of M. Wagner
a recipe for pickling the topsets:
1 cup Egyptian Walking Onion topsets (peeled) root ends trimmed
and scored with an "X"
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the topsets until
just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and
drain again. Transfer the onions to a glass bowl.
in another medium saucepan, bring the water and vinegar to a boil
with the sugar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns.
Boil until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Pour the liquid
over the onions and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to
2 days. Drain before serving.
drained pickled onions can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
of the Egyptian Walking Onion:
Walking Onion" or "Walking Onion":
The name "Egyptian" is very mysterious. The ancient
Egyptians worshipped onions. They believed that its spherical
shape and concentric rings symbolized eternal life. Onions were
even used in Egyptian burials for the pharaohs. Small onions were
found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV! *shudder* It is not known
whether the Egyptian Walking Onion came from the Egyptians or
not. The "Egyptian" part of the name remains a mystery.
Maybe the name refers to the way they walk.....do they "walk
like an Egyptian?"
is another explanation from a website in the UK (treeonions.com):
"Many of the old seed and plant catalogues can refer to tree
onions as "Egyptian onions", presumably for the notion
that these onions originated in Egypt but more likely a corruption
of "gypsy" and the introduction of these plants to some
areas by travellers."
name "Walking Onion" was given to this plant because
it literally walks to new locations. When the cluster of topsets
becomes heavy enough, it will pull the plant over to the ground.
Depending on how tall the plant is and where the bend occurs,
the topsets may fall up to 3 feet away from the base of the plant.
Wherever the topsets land on the ground, if the conditions are
right, they will take root and grow new plants. When these new
plants mature, their topsets will eventually fall to the ground
and start the process all over again. Egyptian Walking Onion plants
can walk between 1 and 3 feet per year (and farther if the topset
cluster gets to roll down a hill after getting batted around by
a cat guardian!)
Egyptian Walking Onions are known for their ability to grow a
twisting stalk from the cluster of sets at the top of the plant.
Another cluster of sets will grow at the end of this second stalk
giving the plant a branching, tree-like appearance. Sometimes
a third branch will grow, and there will be a third cluster of
topsets! And yes, I've seen a 4th branch!
Onion", "Topset Onion", or "Top Setting Onion":
Walking Onions grow a cluster of sets (mini onions) at the top
of the plant instead of seeds.
Onions can survive freezing cold winters with temperatures plummeting
well below 24°F! They are hardy to zone 3.
following three scientific names refer to the Egyptian Walking
cepa var. proliferum
Egyptian Walking Onions are proliferous. A proliferous plant produces
new individuals by budding. This type of plant also produces offshoots,
especially from unusual places. In the case of the Egyptian Walking
Onion, an offshoot will grow out form cluster of sets. Proliferous
plants produce an organ or shoot from an organ that is itself
normally the last, as a shoot or a new flower from the midst of
a flower. In the case of the Egyptian Walking Onion, a cluster
of topsets grows from a cluster of topsets forming a multi-tiered
is an interesting article from an 1805 journal which describes
the name well. The article was written sometime between 1780 and
on the Growth and Propagation of a Proliferous Onion. By the late
Mr. Isaac Gray, of Kingsessing, near Philadelphia. Conmunicated
to the Editor (in 1794) by the late Mr. David Rittenhouse.
the year 1780, a friend of mine presented me with a full-grown
bulb of this onion. He said it was a curiosity of the culinary
kind, in the vegetable creation; and such it certainly is,
in this part of the world: for few of them, as yet, have been
cultivated here. But, perhaps, it may be deemed more curious,
as exhibiting a mode of propagation, in plants, which I believe
has, hitherto, been unnoticed by the botanical writers, several
of the most intelligent in that branch of science (here) having
told me, that the observations now made, are wholly new to them.
I recieved the root without any distinguishing name, and have
examined several treatises on botany and gardening, without being
able to find any account of this variety of the Allium Cepa, I
have ventured to give it the above name, as designating, in some
measure, the nature of the plant: but this name may give way to
any other more proper, or common.
bulb, or root, which I have mentioned, was planted in the spring
of this year, in a good, but rather stiff, soil, where it soon
shot up with a hollow stem, after the manner of the common onion,
to the height of above fifteen inches, and there formed a cluster
of small bulbs. From the centre of which there shot out another
stem, like the first, to the height of about twelve inches, where
there was formed another cluster of bulbs. From these bulbs proceeded
a third stem, about ten inches high, upon which grew a third cluster,
proportionally smaller than any of the preceeding ones. The number
of bulbs, produced from one root, amounted to thirty-two.
attentively observing the last cluster, there appeared to be something
like seed-vessels shot out, about half an inch from the stem of
the plant, in company with the last and smallest of the bulbs.
It appeared to me somewhat extraordinary, that a plant should
produce bulbs (sui generis) together with seeds, at the
same time, by which it would have appeared, that Nature was profusely
generous in the means of propagating this plant.
most, if not all, the annual and deciduous vegetables, it has
hitherto appeared, that after the perfection of the seed, Nature
has ordered it, that they fall to the ground, where, after a due
length of time, they germinate, and continue their different species.
But in the plant of which I have given some account, Nature seems
to have taken another method: for although, upon viewing it, one
would readily and naturally conclude, that the bulbs were produced
immediately from the stem of the plant, yet, by examination, it
appears, that they are produced from seed, somewhat as other plants,
though after a different manner; and that a regular and proper
seed-vessel, containing seed (nearly similar to those of the common
onion) is previously formed, which, contrary to the common course
of Nature, and as if too delicate to receive the principle or
impulse of germination, in the universal matrix, instead of falling
off, adhere firmly to the stem of the plant; and there, in the
order of Providence, without the immediate aid of the Earth, as
the common medium or vehicle, but by means of the atmosphere and
natural succulence of the mother plant, germinate and produce
a bulb, similar to that from which it sprang.
conclude, that, after this occult and peculiar manner, several
species of proliferous plants must be produced. This conjecture,
however, I submit to the observation and investigation of the
is a fascinating article. The author says that the "bulbs"
on the stem of the plant [topsets] are produced from seed and
germinate in the atmosphere while adhering to the stem of the
mother plant. This is not true according to my observations. The
bulbs form at the top of the plant stalk inside a paper like sack
in the spring. There is no seed germination involved. He is definitely
correct about the formation of the multi-tiered stems [branches]
and bulb clusters.
cepa var. bulbiferous
Walking Onions are bulbiferous. They produce bulbs!
cepa var. viviparum
Walking Onions are viviparous. They produce bulbils or new plants
rather than seed. Egyptian Walking Onion sets germinate while
still attached to the parent plant. They can be seen growing leaves
and roots before they ever touch the ground.
cluster of topsets growing nice roots while still attached to
stalk which has bent over from the weight (it's in the process
cepa var. multiplicans
Walking Onions multiply. They are really a type of multiplier
onion. Every year, each bulb in the ground will produce offsets,
just like a potato onion, and just like a bunching onion for that
matter. The Egyptian Walking Onion is sort of half way between
a potato onion and a bunching onion, only with added extra bonus
(monocotyledon - having one seed leaf)
of the Egyptian Walking Onion:
is a tough one! There is not a lot of information on the internet
about the Egyptian Walking Onion, and what you do find is very
repetitive. One thing is for certain is that this onion is an
definition of heirloom pertaining to plants: "a variety of
plant that has originated under cultivation and that has survived
for several generations usually due to the efforts of private
know this from personal experience. Many people have called me
and told me how their parents or grandparents used to grow these
onions. Here's a recent account from one man in Georgia, "I
got a shoebox of bulbs from an elderly gentleman at work whose
family had been growing them in their Georgia garden as long as
he could remember. Ive been growing them in our vegetable
garden since, well over 40 years. They always thrive!"
go ahead and ask your grandparents what kinds of onions they grew
in their gardens!
Egyptian Walking Onion is a hybrid between the Welsh Onion, Allium
fistulosum, and the common onion, Allium cepa. This
hybrid is sterile and does not produce seed, for the most part,
that I know of. I have never seen a viable Egyptian Walking Onion
seed. That being said, it can be concluded that the plants we
have today probably came from the plants sold, documented, or
described in verious seed catalogs and magazines in England from
clear back in the 1500's. Here is an example from Curtis's Botanical
Magazine from 1812 (note the interesting veriant of the letter
"s" in the old English text):
red variety of the Egyptian Walking Onion, commonly referred to
as the "Catawissa" strain, was believed to have originated
near Catawissa, PA and was first described in "The Vegetable
Garden" by Vilmorin-Andrieux in 1885. This variety has red
topsets and bulbs and is taller and has more banches than the
other "white" variety. Are there other varieties? Yes!
There is a miniature variety which we will soon offer for sale
here on our website.
what about before the seed catalogs and the botanical descriptions?
Where did the Egyptian Walking Onion come from? Well, from Wikipedia
we have this explanation:
"It has been postulated that the name "Egyptian onion"
derived from Romani people bringing tree onions to Europe from
the Indian subcontinent."
now, an ode to the Egyptian Walking Onion, written by me, Tracy
A Poem About
Egyptian Walking Onions
Written by AI
green and lush and fair,
Where sunlight dances through the air,
There grows a plant, both strange and rare,
The Egyptian Walking Onion.
Its leaves are long, its
stems are tall,
Its bulbs in clusters, growing all,
And though it seems so thin and small,
This onion is quite resilient.
For as it grows, it multiplies,
Its roots sprouting, with great surprise,
New bulbs that grow to reach the skies,
And on they march, unyielding.
Through wind and rain and
This onion perseveres, and tries,
And never once, it seems, it dies,
For it is truly ever-living.
And so we honor, with great
This wondrous plant that perseveres,
The Egyptian Walking Onion, dear,
A symbol of life and growth.
are always looking for more Egyptian Walking Onion information.
If you have any information on these onions, especially history
and photos and prints from old magazines and catalogs, that are
not found on our website, please email us with the information
and we will send you FREE Egyptian Walking Onions!***
with Geoff Lawton!
sister site to the egyptianwalkingonion.com, because they were
both created by the same person. Yes, Tracy is a farmer and
an artist all in one!
offspring of Pet-Paws.
Yes, this is baby Tracy!
story of Star, Sun, and Moon.
Egyptian Walking Onion donates to The Wild Animal Sanctuary!
on the Tiger!
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