I’ve been on an Allium kick lately, looking into this wide array of edible herbs (I do love my cooking herbs!). There’s so many edibles in the genus, even many of the ornamentals are said to be great in the kitchen. I thought about posting this in my projects thread, but felt it deserved its own post.
I grew Garlic Chives (A. tuberosum) a few years ago (and have some seed to try again soon), but barely ate them at the time because the snails liked to hang around them (despite not eating them), and I wasn’t about to risk rat lungworm. They didn’t taste much like garlic at all, even after accounting for mildness of flavor. I don’t much remember their taste, but I liked how they grew as clumps, perennialized, and self-sowed further… I’m particularly interested in perennial Alliums.
I sowed Common Chives (A. schoenoprasum) a few months ago, and a single plant came up, currently planted with my fig tree; it’s a nice, mild, oniony flavor. I’m actually wondering if I have the right plant because I planted Scallions in the same tray (supposedly none came up), but I think it’s the right one.
I got some Egyptian Walking Onions (A. x proliferum) from Annie not long ago, and so far they’re growing like a dream with the fig and a grapevine.
Scallions are up next. I’ve heard some are from A. cepa, and others (Welsh Onions) from A. fistulosum, and I’m particular interested in the latter. I may order some seed from Baker Creek soon, but in the meantime I have some random supermarket scallions sprouted in a cup of water waiting for me to plant them. I read online about a type of A. cepa called “Mexican Onions” (Onions, Leeks, Shallots, Garlic, Ramps), where the mature onion bulb also has tender leaves & stem, pulling double duty as onion and scallion, but I haven’t found any source for seeds of this variety.
Regarding Onions (A. cepa), I’m primarily interested in multiplier types: Red Shallots and Potato Onions. I have a supermarket shallot in a cup of water, but it’s not doing much, and I don’t want it to rot, so I’ll try planting it out soon. For Potato Onions, I really really want the large-bulbed “Green Mountain” variety, but the few people I’ve seen selling it either don’t ship to Puerto Rico, or they sell seeds instead of bulbs (potato onions don’t grow true from seeds, and I don’t intend to select new varieties just yet… I wanna start with the original and work from there).
I’m keen on trying Griselle / French Grey Shallots (A. oschaninii), but always remember them after the season is over.
I tried Garlic (A. sativum) a few years ago (and soon again) without much success. Apparently they require careful varietal selection and vernalization to produce in the tropics, which is a bit of a disappointment to me (even if it is as simple as refrigerating for a few weeks). Is there no garlic capable of producing heads without vernalizing? Breeding to locally adapt wouldn’t likely yield useful results except in the very long term, because of fertility issues, long grow-out times, and because even the seeds require stratification to properly mature the plant post-germination. Elephant Garlic (a type of Leek, A. ampeloprasum) also requires vernalization of the cloves… if I knew that years ago, I might have succeeded.
I did place an order for bulbs of Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), and though I expect good results and worthwhile enjoyable flavor, I don’t expect a full and proper flavor substitute for Garlic (“Society” because it’s much milder).
For Leeks (A. ampeloprasum), I wanna try the Perennial types. I know the name of one (“Babington’s”), but I think there are other, similar but more common types of perennial leek (which I think are synonymous with “True Pearl Onions”). If I’m not mistaken, they’re all smaller, thinner and more tender than regular leeks, but perennialize and clump well. Babington’s dies down in summer (a point I’ll get to soon), but I hope regular Perennial Leeks don’t. Is anyone growing these?
I tried growing Ramp bulbs (A. tricoccum) and they put out some leaves and very quickly returned to summer dormancy. I coaxed some extra leaves with a few weeks of refrigeration, but they didn’t do well for me at all, and soon died off. This made me wary of summer-dormant Alliums, and I don’t expect them to adapt well to tropical climes. So with that, I didn’t bother trying Ramsons (A. ursinum).
I’m hoping to get better results (enlighten me, please) with Lily Leeks (A. triquetrum) and Nodding Onion (A. cernuum); I recently ordered bulbs of the former and seeds of the latter. I also ordered Rakkyo (A. chinense), and as a proper domesticated Allium, I’m excited to try it, and expect good results.
In addition to Rakkyo, Japan also has a hybrid between Garlic Chives and A. ochotense dubbed 行者菜 (Gyōjana), but I don’t know of any source for it. And regarding Hybrids, I know of one experiment that managed to cross Onion and Garlic (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00215036) – distinct from the experiment that crossed Onion with Garlic Chives, more readily found online – and the idea sounds incredible to me, so I wonder… why hasn’t this hybrid been released? Even if it doesn’t possess good commercial traits, it’s bound to be good for the home gardener.
Back to Leeks (A. ampeloprasum), I’m interested in Kurrat, grown for the leaves – and I suspect it’s perennial –, but there’s not much info about them online, let alone propagules of it. I did find Persian Leek seeds online, also eaten for the leaves, and wonder if they’d be worthwhile. I thought about ordering Persian Shallot seeds (A. stipitatum), but figured they probably required stratification & vernalization, so decided against it.
Other wild Alliums that seemed potentially worthwhile (but I still wonder if they’re adaptable) are Sand Leek (A. scorodoprasum), Rosy Garlic (A. roseum), Yellow Garlic (A. moly), Field Garlic (A. oleraceum) and Few-flowered Leek (A. paradoxum).
Any experiences with rare Alliums? Any warnings of potentially poor tropical performance? How have they fared for y’all?