Seed Saving for Allium Growers
Part 1 of this article (The Seed
Savers Allium Quiz) is here
Bulbing Onions (Allium
cepa – Cepa group)
By far them most common and complex group of onions.
They are seed producing biennials that can be propagated either
seed-to-seed or seed to bulb to seed. There is a great deal of Extension
literature on local varieties, day length sensitivity and culture.
After several years of growing them, I still prefer the old traditional
Stockton Yellows for their flavor, and ease of growing, curing and
storing. My only complaint is not being able to grow enough –
the more we have the more we eat. To grow them, plant seed in Nov.
or Dec. either direct of in flats. Set out in early spring. You
can purchase transplants and set them out in early spring, or set
them out in Oct-Dec for both bulbing and blooming plants. Vernalization
(cold chill) of the young plants will cause those larger than a
pencil to bolt when days get longer – you have the choice
of growing them to seed, or eating them like bunching onions. Most
of our bolting onions go direct from the garden to the grill –
The seeds tend to be brittle, so handle them gently.
The germination rate will decline to 50% after two year in proper
storage so grow out unused seed for scallions.
Japanese Bunching Onions
I grow them because they are always available, in
all seasons. In the kitchen, you can use them as a substitute for
scallions and for bulbing onions. The flavor is distinctive and
there is no onion easier to grow – plant them once and eat
them often. They are biennials with fertile flowers that produce
seed, and they will occasionally cross-pollinate with bulbing onions.
I have a cross of them with Stockton Yellows that produce an enlarged
bulbous base (yellow in color), alas, they do not cure or store
well. To keep the purity of my bulbing onion stock, I clip off the
bunching onion seed stalks before they flower.
Common Chives (Allium
So easy to grow, maintain and propagate, yet so seldom
grown. I leave my chives to fend for themselves and there they are
year after year, ready for use. In this climate they will winter
over dormant and emerge in Feb. Most common Chive seeds on the market
is all one variety – purple blooming, although there are other
Garlic Chives (Allium
The plant looks like miniature leeks with flat
leaves and have a mild garlic flavor. They bloom profusely in late
summer with a bonnet of white flowers that insects love. I grow
them in parsley beds and in clusters with Common Chives. The seeds
are very easy to collect. The dry seed stalks and bonnets of white
blossoms are attractive additions to flower beds.
Beyond the Ordinary
Most American based seed catalogs offer one to a few
varieties of leek seeds. Some will distinguish between winter and
summer types, but most do not. If you want a picture of how Europe
treats leeks, take a look at the catalog for Graines Baumaux French
Seed Company (rudimentary French language skills required for navigation).
They list 25 varieties including some you will not find anywhere
Bulbing leeks? Yes, they are related to garlic, but
still able to reproduce by seed (garlic only reproduce vegetative
by bulbs and bulbuls). The common one is Elephant Garlic - actually
a leek that forms bulbs and is propagated by bulblets like true
garlic. The Portuguese onion is another bulbing leek, also known
as Perlzwiebel. The head divides into small, round bulblets resembling
pearl onions that range from pearl size to an inch in length. There
is one listing in the Graines Baumaux French Seed Company catalog
The Los Mol wild leek is perhaps the least know of
the bulbing leeks. It was once widely cultivated in church gardens
and is now naturalized throughout Europe (primarily in Spain and
the United Kingdom). Some of the naturalized European stands now
are being harvested for commercial purposes because of the interest
among gardeners. Each bulb divides into four bulbs that sometimes
have hard bulblets attached, like elephant garlic. Either the full
bulb or the bulblets can be used for propagation. There is one listing
in the Seed Savers 2006 Yearbook.
Finally there is the North American wild leek (Allium
tricoccum), also known as ramps. Although not a bulbing leek, it
is a wild gourmet plant that can be cultivated in the home garden.
Ramps are found from North Carolina to Canada and are collected
in the spring starting in the south and moving north. For more information
consult Wikipedia (link)
The Ramp Farm (link).
Without onions, there is no cuisine, just food
– so grow some! They even look good and grow well in flowerbeds
Part 1 of this article (The Seed
Savers Allium Quiz) is here
Articles and information about
Alliums on this website:
Seeds of Chance - The
Selfers and The Outcrossers (link)
Why Not Leeks? - The basics about
how to plant and grow leeks. (link)
To Vichyssoise and Beyond - Leeks
in the kitchen and unusual varieties. (link)
Allium Resource Page - Additional
references and suppliers (link)
Seed Suppliers - A linked list of
53 suppliers of seeds and plants. (link)
Seed to Seed, Seed Saving Techniques
for the Vegetable Gardener - Suzanne Ashworth, Kent Whealy
Garden Secrets, A Guide to
Understanding How Your Garden Grows and How You Can Help It Grow
Even Better – Dorothy Hinshaw
NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) Handbook
series – The Wisdom of Plant Heritage: Organic Seed Production
and Saving - by Bryan Connolly with contributing editor.
is a form of pollination that can occur when a flower has both stamens
and a pistil in which the cultivar or species is self-fertile and
the stamens and the sticky stigma of the pistil contact each other
to accomplish pollination.
cultivar is a cultivated plant that has received a name
under the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.
For this, it must be distinct from other cultivars and it must be
possible to propagate it reliably, in the manner prescribed for
that particular cultivar. Status as a cultivar is a quite limited
one, with nomenclatural consequences only; it offers no legal protection.
depression is reduced fitness in
a given population as a result of breeding of related individuals.
Breeding between closely related individuals results in more recessive
deleterious traits manifesting themselves.