Mar 27

Knowing your onions – The sequel

Since my last post about re-growing green onions (spring onions), I have been experimenting with other members of the Allium family such as baby leeks and garlic. The word Allium is Latin for garlic, and all members of the plant family are edible including the stems and bulbs. They all produce Cysteine Sulfoxide which gives them the characteristic ‘onion-y’ or ‘garlic-y’ flavour and smell, but in different quantities and hence the are not all equally flavourful.

I picked up some baby leeks at the supermarket and while preparing them for a dish, I though I should keep the bulbs as I had done with the green onions and try to re-grow them. As before, I left about an inch (2.5cm) of the leek bulb, put them in a small jam jar with enough water to cover the roots and left them on a sunny window, changing the water every day. Though they did re-grow, they took a very long time, over 20 days, to produce enough stem for harvesting and the bulbs had been severly diminished and probably wouldn’t re-grow a second time. Since leeks are at the larger end of the Allium family it makes sense that they take longer to grown and require more nutrients, and hence probably aren’t suitable for re-growing in just water. Another experiment would be to try and re-grow them in compost or even vermiculite.

Re-growing baby leeks

Re-growing baby leeks

I keep my fresh garlic in a small ceramic garlic pot and there are always tiny, little garlic cloves hanging around at the bottom that are too small to be useful. I did some research and found out garlic steams, sometimes called ‘scapes’ have a culinary use, but are usually just discarded by garlic growers because the stem, or flower stalk takes away too much energy from the bulb. I gathered up about 5 small garlic cloves, put them in a small shot glass and followed the same procedure as with the green onions and baby leeks. These have been a great success. The shoots were a little slow to start, but I was able to make the first harvest after about 6 days, and the 2nd harvest was equally as quick. Tender stems can be chopped into salads and any that are slightly more mature can be sautéed lightly and used over pasta. They have a very pleasantly sweet, garlic taste, and are slightly more unusual than just plain garlic, chives or green onions.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

While I have been carrying out these experiments, I have continued with the green onion experiment. It seems to be that the maximum harvest you can get from re-growing the green onions is 2. The bulbs become so diminished, that trying to grow them for a 3rd time means that the steams are very weak and hardly worth using. Also as the bulbs become older they become very slimy and even though the water was changed every day, they start to produce a very strong ‘onion-y’ pong. Still re-using store bought onions twice is well worth the effort.

Allium Factory

Allium Factory

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  1. Bill

    Very cool ongoing experiment with the Alium family. I know that mason / jelly jar you are using for the leeks.

    1. Stuart

      The next time I see you, I’ll drop off the jar. I’m sure the onion-y smell will be gone by then

  2. Bill

    Have you expanded the experiment to using a water fertilizer? This may extend the life of the Alium bulbs in lieu of them consuming their stored energy.

  3. Jacob

    This is very fun to read out loud to my children! I especially enjoyed the eloquent word choice at “a very strong onion-y pong.” Really looking forward to the third installment of the franchise!

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