Deborah gardens as a hobby and enjoys organic vegetables in her kitchen. She keeps a variety of edible plants in her garden.
Onions are the most widely cultivated allium species in the world, and they have been cultivated for over 5,000 years. Experts from archaeologists to botanists believe they originated in central Asia, although there is some evidence to suggest they first grew in the Middle East. In ancient times, they were transported through trade routes and grew wild, as well.
As a vegetable, the onion has a lot of beneficial properties, and they are even used in hair care products. So why not grow a source of this ancient plant ourselves in our garden or kitchen?
Growing Green Onions Without Seeds or Starter Plants
Green onions (and leeks) are some of the easiest vegetables to grow. They are capable of adapting to a variety of soils and unbelievably easy to grow in pots, on windowsills, or in a garden. Growing them from the seed is not a difficult task, but for those who don’t have seeds or don't want to grow them from scratch, there is a more convenient way to grow green onions year-round.
Buy green onions, as many as you like. I prefer organic because they are more hardy, but to each his own. Organic is worth the investment, since this will provide a permanent source of onions.
Cut off the stems. Cut them at least one inch above the roots. You may cut them higher if you wish—basically cut off the green part. The bottom root system is what you need.
Place them in water, roots down. This step is not necessary but helps hydrate the roots. Some will leave them in overnight or for a few days, but I just leave them in the water for approximately 10 minutes.
Bury the onion stems halfway in the dirt. Make sure the roots are covered and surround with mulch. I like to use green alfalfa, but leaves or straw will do just fine.
Plain, healthy soil will work. It it not necessary to fertilize immediately. If you’re going to use fertilizer, do not use non-organic, as it dries up the rich material in the soil and shrivels the onions after one season. You may spread organic fertilizer in your patch or pot or use just use simple things like raw vegetable scraps, banana peels, or egg shells. Used coffee grounds are a great trick to use as well. If you happen to have a pet rabbit, you may use its droppings.
Water! You must water onions daily.
Harvest. You may harvest the leaves whenever you like, although many advise waiting until the leaves are at least 8 inches long. Harvest when the leaves are long and green or are long enough to eat. Be sure to cut from the leaves and not the white stalk to keep a continuous growth cycle.
- You may plant onions any time of the year. They grow year-round but they thrive during the winter.
- This method can also be used to grow leeks.
- That’s it! Now your onions can be used for salads, sandwiches, on the grill or for pasta. Whatever strikes you’re fancy. Enjoy!
Onions in History
Examples of the onion's use as a food source or medicinal remedy can be found throughout history.
- Onions were an object of worship and symbolized eternity.
- In Egypt, onions can be traced back to 3,500 BC and were used for food, medicine, and mummification. They buried onions along with their pharaohs.
- In ancient Sumer, they grew onions as early as 2,500 BC.
- The Greeks used them for athletes. There are accounts of athletes consuming pounds of onions, drinking onion juice, and rubbing onion on their bodies before a competition.
- The doomed city of Pompeii had an onion patch, as well.
- In the Middle Ages, the three main vegetables of European cuisine were beans, cabbage, and onions. Onions were used in prescriptions, as wedding gifts, and to pay the rent.
- Apicius, the ancient Roman cookbook dating to late 4th or early 5th century, mentions onions frequently.
- In the East, onions are found referenced in some of the oldest Vedic writings in India, and can be found 500 years ago in Chinese gardens.
- The first pilgrims brought onions with them on the Mayflower. They found strains of wild onions growing throughout North America. The Native Americans used this ancient plant in syrups, poultices, and as an ingredient in dye.
- During the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant sent a message to the U.S. War Department: “I will not move my army without onions.”
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.