Growing up in Northern Ohio, garlic is about the spiciest thing I’m prepared to deal with.
Last Fall, I planted one 4×4 plot, half with softneck garlic, and half with hardneck garlic (above). I covered the planting with a thick mulch of grass clippings, and in the spring, the stalks started appearing. Because of the thick mulch, I never needed to do much in the way of weeding, and by mid-June, I was rewarded with a nice crop of medium-sized garlic bulbs, each composed of a nice set of cloves.
After doing a photo session in an outdoor studio, I left them in the basement to cure, and other than a few that rotted, the rest of them turned out OK. If anybody had wanted to braid them, which nobody did, the softnecks would have been suitable.
I also experimented with Egyptian Walking Onions this year. Like the garlic, instead of a flower, the top of the stalk grows bulblets, which can be planted to grow more onions. The fun thing about walking onions is that the bulblets, which are shallot-sized and formed, and can be eaten like shallots, sprout new stalks, which get their own set of smaller bulblets. Eventually, the weight becomes too great for the stalk, and it falls over, usually setting root and forming a new plant. Around mid-Summer, I planted a set of the larger bulbs, and we’ve been treating their sprouts, which are still in good shape, as a sort of green onion. I picked a couple hand fulls of stalks last week, chopped them up, and froze them. The original bulbs, planted this time last year, have multiplied and need to be separated. This isn’t considered the most flavorful of onions, but its super easy to grow, reproducing itself year after year with minimal attention from the gardner.
My chives are doing well, also, setting bunches of big purple flowers. There are two nice big clumps in the garden right now, and they might benefit from separation. If I get ambitious, I’ll pick and freeze some before winter.
There were two other representatives of the allium family in the veg patch this year. First were a set of disappointingly small bulbs that I planted from seed. I thought that they were a variety that would provide green onions, but what I ended up with were a set of tiny little shallot-sized bulbs that might have best served humanity if somebody had taken the trouble of pickling them. I would take the trouble of making gin martinis to use them up. Elizabeth enjoys anything small enough to be legitimately referred to as ‘cute’, and she took on the task of peeling and using them for kabobs or something. The biggest onion was a single large bulb type. A lonely onion in a petunia patch, it was either a volunteer, or one that escaped a previous and less successful planting the previous year. It grew a huge and complex white flower at the top of a 3′ tall stalk. I cut the flower and spent a week marvelling at it and trying to capture it photographically. We ate the onion.
Thanksgiving week is the traditional time for fall planting of onion bulbs and I took advantage of a lovely Sunday afternoon today, that peaked at 70 degrees, and planted 5 different varieties: Elephant Garlic, Romanian Red (porcelain-type Rocambole garlic), Italian (artichoke type softneck garlic), French Red Shallots (multiplier type), and Yellow Potato Onions (multiplier type). All of those are on the small side, and I don’t know what I’ll do with them, other than have fun watching them grow.
Having lucked into one large bulb type onion this year, I’m ready to plant some more. The guy who runs the organic market in Vienna told me last summer that he can get me some onion sets if I contact him in December, so I’ll give him a call soon.