Perennial Alliums

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?

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i have walking onions i planted last year. regular chives growing in several spots in the yard. i just planted nodding onion and red welsh onion. i plan to put them under my trees and bushes to spread in the yard. not sure how they would grow in the tropics though. all these are perennial onions.

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Not in the tropics, but we have been growing scallions by cutting off the tops from a bunch of grocery store scallions, planting the bottoms in the garden, and harvesting them cut-and-come-again. They will keep going that way until late fall/early winter (whenever the cold takes them out, not a problem for you).

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you have an intresting list of alliums to try out.

Im also slowly getting more and more intrested in alliums. Also to plant under my fruit tree’s.

Tulbaghia violacea is quite nice. The leaves have a garlic like taste. But not the same. I haven’t eaten the cloves of it yet.

Creole from the hardneck group can deal better with heat.
And most softnecks need less cold in winter.

Garlics flower by themselfs but don’t make true seeds by themselfs. They make bulblets in the flower. And those are clones. They can (anecdotel, but plausible mechanisem) be used to clean your garlic planting supply of soil diseases. Since some of those will likely not reach the bulbils. And thus making the grown out bulbils usualy “cleaner” disease wise.

If you want to hybridise and grow your own. Google on “true garlic seed” . and be prepared to become verry friendly with tweezers.
It’s somthing im trying out this year. if i find the time (diden’t last year)

Most practicle for you would be to just store your planting stock in the fridge. And than plant out during your coldest time of year. Since garlic likes it a little colder during growing season to. (creole’s and softnecks handle heat best during growing)

if also got the elephant garlic i think it weigth almost a pound for the whole bulb. Next to it, and admitently smal garlic bulb. But still a single clove is twice a whole small garlic bulb XD

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How about growing alliums where it’s cold? I’m in US zone 6. I grow some hard neck garlic, chives, and scallions. Can i grow shallots? How much do deer like the alliums? I guess i could look all that up.

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That is some good looking elephant garlic! I have a small amount that was gifted to me by my father in law. He has been growing it for a very long time. I am starting the process of selecting the biggest cloves each year to hopefully breed the biggest possible cloves in the future. Is that “a thing” (genetic improvement via selecting the best cloves) or is clove development size primarily just based on the level of nutrition the cloves receive?

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it can be a thing. but is very rare.

Mutants
Most cloves are clones. Some can mutate.
If they mutate they are usualy weaker and make smaller cloves or die. Somtimes they hit the jackpot and are stronger. Those can make bigger cloves.

Still plant the biggest cloves!
It is still worth it to plant the biggest cloves and eat the smaller ones though.
The bigger clove has more stored energy (carbohydrates/sugar) and thus can grow a bigger plant. The bigger plant can harvest more water sunlight and nutrients. And thus can make a bigger bulb. Even tough it is genetically identical to it’s smaller brothers/sisters.

Epigenetics
Another mechanisem that somtimes is at play is epigenetics. it’s hard to judge how large an effect this gives.

But think of DNA as a building plan for a house. You can keep the building plan the same. Have the lighting fixtures at the same spot with the same electrical connection. But ask the contractor to instal higher wattage light bulbs. And suddenly your house is brighter. If you make a “note” on the building plans for higher wattage light bulbs. And than you give your exact building plans to your neigbour who als wants the same house. The contractor will also instal the higher wattage bulbs in his house. unles ofcourse your neigbour removes that note from the plans.

this is an oversimplfied analogy to epigenetics.
With epigenetics the enviroment can thus change the expression of existing genes. (in the light bulb example it can swap em out for higher wattage builbs. But can’t instal an extra lightfixture. since the “electrical connection for that is not on the building plan”)

So in my example above you and your neighbour are “the enviroment” putting pressure on the house to adapt. But only within the possibility’s of the plan the architect made. (and you can see the architect as the parents of the house)

SEEDS
If you want to change the genetics of your elephant garlic, growing seeds is usualy the fastest/easiest way to do that. (growing seeds is equivalent to ordering up multiple different building plans. And then looking at them and building them and determining which house is best and you want to build more the same off)
I coulden’t find anywhere if it sets seeds and how.
So it’s something im gonna try and experiment with. I think i saved some seeds of it last year. I have yet to test out of their viable. or if their bulbils. Although im pretty sure thei where seeds. (seeds where still green when the plants went brown)

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all you mentioned grow great here. i dont even mulch my raised beds and they survive -35f. of course we have alot of snow that protect them in the coldest weather. as far as i know deer dont touch allums.

I used to think deer didn’t touch the stuff either, but I’ve had my fresh garlic shoots munched off before. Deer behavior differs greatly from place to place it seems.

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we dont have many deer here either so thats why as far as i know they dont touch them. i know the occasional moose comes through and may munch on raspberry leaves and such but hasnt touched my allums. niether do the voles.

I had a lot of scallions until something (my guess is rabbits) decided it is good to eat. Now I only have one scrawny plant in a pot, and everything that was in the grown is gone.

Although selecting larger cloves is highly unlikely to change the genetics of the plant given that they are clones, they do impact how it grows the following year. For garlic, the bigger the clove you plant, the bigger the likely resulting head. This is the opposite for multiplier onions, where larger onions tend to divide, resulting in multiple smaller onions, whereas smaller onions tend to grow into larger onions. I don’t grow elephant garlic, but I assume, based on what I understand of its growth pattern, that it would behave similar to regular garlic.

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I love the I’itoi onion from native seed search. I received a small clump of them and they are delicious and multiplying like crazy. I just keep dividing them and placing them in different parts of my property. They are sort of sweet with a flavor similar to shallots.

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I recently discovered the I’itoi too, and was fascinated! Day neutral, and it’ll keep growing and multiplying indefinitely, only going dormant with weather extremes. The greens are tender and scallion-like as well, so it’s like a multiplier version of that “Mexican Onion” I mentioned, which is better in my book.

I contacted Kelly Winterton, and while he doesn’t currently have available bulbs for potato onion (I asked about Green Mountain and Garnet Mountain), he did have starts for I’itoi Onion and Perpetual Leek, so I placed an order. Going by his page, multiplier onions come in several types, with two broad categories: those that die back (Red Shallots, Potato Onions) and those that don’t – weather permitting – (Hill Onions, I’itoi Onion).

My eBay Rakkyo order was cancelled and refunded, big disappointment. I don’t get people’s beef with shipping to Puerto Rico, we’re USPS (and rather close by), there’s no big difference in shipping costs, shipping time, nor methods when dealing with us. And they were in Florida to boot, that’s as close as they come! There’s only one other Rakkyo eBay vendor, who I was avoiding due to a poor review balance, but there’s not much choice left. I hope they don’t cancel my order as well, I was really excited to try this species.

I bet there is someone around here who would be able to help you out… Anyone have what Caesar is looking for lol?

Wow I’m sorry that happened to you. Let me know if you can’t get anyone to ship to you. I am the same way about unique plants that are edible and love to try all varieties if they will grow here. If you can’t get them to deliver maybe we could make a trade on alliums that you have for the I’itoi.

@disc4tw & @gardener1

Help with such matters is always appreciated, thanks. Regarding the I’itoi, Mr. Winterton seemed able and willing to ship them and the Perennial Leeks to PR, so I’ll get back to you if something goes wrong there.

At any rate, the other, semi-poorly reviewed eBay vendor came through in the end. The Rakkyo arrived today, and though rather small & a bit dry, they seem healthy and viable. The Society Garlic also arrived today, and I’ll be giving all of them the recommended 1-part Chlorine to 9-parts Water soak, to minimize disease transfers.

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