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Walking Onions

Report From PIA – December 29

About 35 years ago I was first introduced to Irene Galdston, the mother of a good friend. She learned that I was interested in plants, so she offered me a “walking onion” from her Long Island garden. “If people could live on onions alone,” she said, “this one would feed the planet.”

Walking onions (Allium cepa var. proliferum) form their bulbs on top of a stem which bends under the weight of these offspring, and the bulblets end up rooting a few inches away from the parent plant. They can be used like chives, but I love them because they are so comical. Every time we moved over the past 35 years I took some of those walking onions with me to our new properties, and today they grow just outside of my kitchen door.

Over the years, whenever I’ve been amused that these onions have popped up in another location in my perennial and herb gardens, I’ve thought of Irene and her comment about how they could feed millions. Irene died today, but she’ll always be present in my gardens.

In June, the onions are just beginning to form their top bulblets - here they are just above the white feverfew that is just to the left of the foxgloves.

In June, the onions are just beginning to form their top bulblets - here they are just above the white feverfew that is just to the left of the foxgloves.

Irene visited our house in 2008, and at that time I gave her some of the descendants of her original plants.

Irene visited our house in 2008, and at that time I gave her some of the descendants of her original plants.

3 Responses to “Walking Onions”

  1. 1
    melanie watts:

    I got some of these from a friend although she called them Egyptian onions. Unfortunately they didn’t make it from my last garden to the garden I have now.
    It’s great how plants can remind you of a person, usually the person who gave them to you.

  2. 2
    Hilda M. Morrill:

    Dear C.L.,

    I am sorry for the loss of your dear friend’s mother, Irene. I loved the
    photo you posted of her.

    She sure was correct regarding the walking onion’s hardiness. Only yesterday, I was able to cut some stems to use in a recipe. And, it was 19 degrees outside.

    I don’t know/remember where I got the original plants. However, from now on they will be “Irene’s.”

    Warm regards, Hilda

  3. 3
    CL Fornari:

    Hilda, as always, you make me smile!

    Melanie, do you live on Cape Cod? If so, you can have some of Irene’s walking onions next spring.