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

Different kinds of perennial onions

Potato onion shootsI keep getting questions from folks wanting to know the difference between Egyptian onions, potato onions, shallots, and multiplier onions.  All are perennial onions that reproduce by bulbs, and it's easy to confuse them.

Egyptian onions
(also known as walking onions) are easy to distinguish because they reproduce by little bulbs at the top of leaf stalks.  They don't make big bulbs, so are best eaten as green onions or scallions.

"Multiplier onion" is a term used to refer to any onion that reproduces by dividing its underground bulbs (just like garlic does.)  Multiplier onions can be separated into two categories --- shallots (which form bulbs up to 1.5 inches in diameter) and potato onions (which form bulbs up to 3 inches in diameter.)

We're growing potato onions for the first time this fall, and I have to say that I've already decided I love them.  I carefully planted them in raised beds a month ago and mulched them heavily with leaves.  Then, just as everything else in the garden and woods was turning brown and dying, the potato onions shot up fresh, green sprouts.  Hooray for perennial onions!

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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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Thanks for the post. I never know what kind of onions I had, now I know that they are walking onions!. I will have to try planting the other varieties too. Can't have too many onions =]
Comment by Tracy Fri Dec 4 09:05:51 2009
Walking onions (aka Egyptian onions) are the ones we've been growing for quite a while too. I hope the potato onions are as easy and prolific!
Comment by anna Sat Dec 5 12:10:51 2009
Egyptian onions do form a bulb (multiple of them just like a shallot) around the same size as a shallot. It’s at that size they form the bulbils.
Comment by Pauline Sat May 21 19:21:54 2022

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