A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.
It’s been all change at my perennial vegetable allotment recently. I’ve been relocating plants to make room for two ‘sand beds’ for plants which haven’t been doing so well in the clay soil, but also to establish a bed with larger colonies of the perennial leeks and onions we most like to cook with. Here is the new bed….
The first few plants at the near end of the bed are young Welsh onions. Behind those are Minogue onions (a leek!) Potato onions are planted in the next section and a perennial leek, St.Victor x Oerprei, occupies the far end of the bed.
The bed is about 3.6m long. The potato onions and the perennial leek cross are intended to fill a third of it each, and the Welsh onions and Minogue onions a sixth each. All the plants will clump up in time and I intend to harvest big onion bulbs/leek shanks/bunches of leaves as we need them (and replant offsets and bulbs in gaps as they appear to keep the colonies going). A bit of thinning out will be needed from time to time too. I’ve planted some creeping thyme in there as well, hoping it will spread and provide ground cover without detracting from the growth of the alliums.
My other edible alliums are intermingled with other plants on the allotment. There are Babington leeks and wild leeks with the sea kale and sea beat, and tree onions and Elephant garlic in with the asparagus. The rest are mostly growing in the herb garden.
Counting up I have quite a number now. Not the huge collection I could have, as all alliums are edible and there are hundreds of species! (You can see over 700 pictures of Stephen Barstow’s allium collection here). However some are much better eating than others; I’ve been aiming to grow the tastiest, and most convenient for cooking and to have something oniony to harvest all year around. The following list just about covers the ones I have growing so far.
Perennial leek – Allium ampeloprasum St.Victor x Oerprei – cross made by Aster Lane Edibles. Produces seeds.
Wild perennial leek – Allium ampeloprasum – produces seeds.
Babington’s leek – Allium ampeloprasum var. babingtonii – a sub-species of A. ampeloprasum which produces top-setting bulbils and sterile flowers. Pronounced garlic flavour.
Elephant garlic – Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum – a sub-species of A. ampeloprasum with very large bulbs. Produces seeds.
True pearl onion – Allium ampeloprasum var. sectivum – produces many small, white, mild, sweet onions in the ground. Often pickled or roasted.
Minogue onion – Allium ampeloprasum var. sectivum ‘Minogue’? – Not absolutely sure of the species for this one but there are suggestions that it is a form of pearl onion. I have found it to be vigorous, growing and clumping up very quickly.
Welsh or Japanese bunching onion – Allium fistulosum – produces clumps of hollow leaves, many varieties in existence, of various heights and some with red coloration. White conical flowers.
Tree, Egyptian or walking onion – Allium × proliferum – a hybrid of Allium cepa, the common onion, and Allium fistulosum. Produces small (1-3cm) top-setting bulbs in multiple tiers and a medium-sized round bulb in the ground. Several varieties in existence.
Chives – Allium schoenoprasum – there are many varieties of various heights, shades of white, pink and purple flower colour and shades of green foliage colour.
Giant chives – Allium schoenoprasum sibiricum and Allium ledebourianum both sometimes go under the name of giant chives and I would like a large chive. Neither have achieved very large stature yet but may do so in time.
Rakkyo – Allium chinense – produces an evergreen clump of tubular leaves with small, rose pink flowers.
Garlic or Chinese chives – Allium tuberosum – clumps of flat leaves, garlic flavour, pretty white flowers in late summer or autumn.
French grey shallot, true shallot, griselle – Allium oschaninii – smaller than a regular shallot (and a different species) these have a grey skin and pinkish flesh and said to have a particularly fine flavour – I haven’t yet tasted mine.
Three-cornered leek – Allium triquetrum – leaves have a v-shape in cross-section. Leaves available in winter. Pretty white drooping flowers with green stripes. Can be invasive.
Daffodil garlic – Allium neapolitanum – attractive star-like white flowers, garlic flavour.
Wild garlic – Allium ursinum – broad leaves with a strong garlic smell but milder flavour. Leaves only available in spring. Pretty flowers. Invasive.
Everlasting onion – Allium cepa perutile – Short, clump forming, usually non-flowering. Leaves available all year.
Golden garlic – Allium moly – short variety with yellow flowers and a mild garlic flavour.
I’ll try to improve this list in time, with more details of the season of each type and whether they are drought or shade tolerant and so on. And more photographs!