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The Many Layers of the Onion

Because Onions are small and their tissues leave little or no trace, no one is sure where onions started their long life.  Some believe that they go back to prehistoric days as one of the first vegetables in the prehistoric diet.  Many botanists believe it originated in central Asia over 5000 years ago.


Onions may be one of the earliest cultivated crops because they last months with proper storage and could be preserved to help families make it through the winter when times were tough.

The onion symbolized eternity to the Egyptians who buried onions along with their Pharaohs. The Egyptians saw eternal life in the anatomy of the onion because of its circle-within-a-circle structure. Paintings of onions appear on the inner walls of the pyramids and in the tombs of both the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom.

What compound in onions brings tears to your eyes? Sulfuric compounds. To cut down on the crying, chill the onion and cut into the root end of the onion last.


You can plant onions from seed, but I always buy sets or transplants (small dormant onions).  It guarantees greater success.  The most common onions are planted early in the spring about 8 weeks before the frost date.
But I really like to plant onions in the fall!  Why?  Because I have the time!They also tend to be more reliable and productive, less day-length sensitive and less subject to the depravations of pests and diseases than the more-familiar onions of spring.
Fall onions are top-setting multiplying onions.  Also known as Egyptian onions, tree onions, top onions and walking onions, these fall perennials set small bulblets on top of tall stems, instead of producing underground bulbs or making seed heads. The bulblets measure only 1/2 to 1 inch in length and look like miniature purple-red onions. They often are used for pickling and in vinaigrettes or soups, and they will last several months in storage.
Why am I writing about them now, when fall is several months away for me?  Because it is time to start making your list of plants you would like to plant in the fall and placing your order.
After you order and your bulbs arrive..

Choose a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil, and loosen the planting bed to at least 12 inches deep. Mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost. Make a 4-inch-deep, V-shaped furrow in the prepared bed. Fill the bottom of the furrow with 1 inch of rich compost or a light dusting of dry organic fertilizer, and then water the prepared furrow. Set out seedlings or sets 3 to 6 inches apart, depending on the plants’ mature size.


Another reason to plant fall bulbed onions, their blooms.  If you choose to leave them in the ground you will receive the most delightful blooms in late spring, early summer.  They are a favorite of bees, and make wonderful cut flowers.

The start off their bloom with a paper covering, that eventually splits away and the bloom pushes it’s way out.  Then the bloom sits with a paper hat on its head until it throws it off.  The bloom them grows and grows.  I have some that max out at 12″ wide globes.  Just Beautiful!


Ode To The Onion by Pablo Neruda

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

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