The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Potato onions worth their salt

Potato onions

From the number of times I've posted about them, you'd think that potato onions are a mainstay of our diet.  To follow our adventures from the beginning, read the posts in this order:

As you can tell if you follow all those links, potato onions were a cool idea that didn't really pan out...until now!

Potato onion leavesThe new variety we planted last fall --- Yellow Potato Onions from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange --- are acting more like the books say they should.  About a quarter of the plants simply made one big bulb, and the other 75% have divided into clusters of four to ten smaller bulbs.  Most important, every bulb looks big enough to be worth peeling, even the smallest ones.

The great thing about perennial vegetables is that once you figure them out, they're much easier to grow than annuals.  Take our garlic, for example --- we'll be pulling the heads out of the ground this week, curing them, then planting the biggest cloves in the fall.  That's the sum total of the garlic workload for the year (except for occasional weeding and mulching, of course).  I want onions to be that simple!

So we won't eat a single potato onion in 2012.  They'll all go back in the ground, where the big bulbs will (hopefully) turn into lots of smaller bulbs and the small bulbs will (hopefully) turn into one or a few big bulbs.  Maybe next year (or the year after) there will be enough to eat and I can stop fiddling with transplanting tiny onion seedlings in the early spring.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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So are you just leaving them in the ground or do you need to transplant them into another bed? Also, do you eat the tops or must you leave them if you want them to continue growing larger next season? Do perennial onions taste the same as annual varieties? I never knew there was such a thing!
Comment by mitsy Mon Jun 4 15:48:55 2012

Mitsy --- You treat them pretty much like garlic --- harvest them, cure them, then plant individual heads (rather than cloves for garlic) in the fall.

You could eat the tops in the spring, but I suspect that would take a lot of energy away from bulb development. We like Egyptian onions (another perennial) for greens instead.

We haven't tasted this variety yet --- I'll probably cook one just to see. The other variety tasted a bit more garlicky than a normal onion, but it wasn't a typical potato onion....

Comment by anna Mon Jun 4 16:01:13 2012
Sooooooo, ive read all of your posts on the potato onions :) and lets say youve won me over it looks like im getting these this year :) have you finally cooked one? how does it taste? oniony? garlicy? lol Thank you for documenting this easily dismissed garden vegitable
Comment by C Scott Henningsen C Mon Aug 6 18:58:38 2012
C Scott Henningsen C --- Good reminder to taste one before committing the rest back to the ground as seed for next year's crop. I'll have to tear my brain out of soups, though, to think of a dish where I can really taste whether the onion is oniony or garlicky. Maybe stir-fry? :-)
Comment by anna Tue Aug 7 08:25:41 2012

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