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How to Grow, Harvest & Use Egyptian Walking Onions

by Dawn
Walking onion topset

What are Egyptian Walking Onions and Why Do you Want them in your Garden?

I bet, unless you’re a totally avid gardener, you’ve never heard of Egyptian Walking Onions before. Amirite?

To make life easier and save my typing fingers, we’re going to call Egyptian Walking Onions EWO from this point on.

So, what are they and why do you want them?

What are Egyptian Walking Onions?

Egyptian walking onion plants
These are the plants in my garden in late June

EWO are, as their name implies, in the onion family. But what’s this “walking” thing?

This is the second post in my Abundant Harvest series. Over the next few months, I’ll be posting about various crops and how you can harvest and use them from your garden. If you’d like to read the first post on using garlic scapes to make the Japanese pancakes called okonomiyaki, you can find that here. Some of these posts will have bonus content you can access by signing up for my Resource Library.

The fun thing about EWO’s is that they grow little onions or topsets at the top of their stalks or leaves. When these little onions get heavy enough, the stalks bend over, the onions end up on the ground, and they root, thus “walking” the plant across the garden! Cool, huh?

How Can I Grow Egyptian Walking Onions?

The answer to this? Very easily! EWO will grow in full sun in zones 3 through 10, and the best thing is, if you don’t harvest every single one each year, you’ll never have to plant them again! They’re perennials!

Basically, if your other veggies are happy, your EWO will be happy. They don’t like to be waterlogged, but regular watering during the hot summer months is appreciated. Average soil is fine, they just don’t appreciate very heavy soil.

When Should I Plant Egyptian Walking Onions?

Walking onion aerial topsets
You can see from this pic why they’re sometimes called tree onions!

EWO should be planted from mid-summer to just before your first frost. I planted mine in, I think, August last year. They came up after I planted them and before the first frost (because our first frost is around October 15th), but obviously didn’t set onions last year.

You’ll want to plant your onions about 2 inches deep. If you want to end up with large onions, plant them 6 inches or so apart. If you’d rather have smaller, sweeter onions, you can plant them as close as 2 inches apart.

This year, they came up with a vengeance and started producing small topset onions by June! I have already harvested a few of them (more on that below), although I won’t harvest the main ones until later this fall.

All you have to do to ensure that you’ll have onions the following year is leave a few in the ground, or you can plant some of the small topsets that grow. You can see in the pic below that they already have sprouts, so will easily grow if planted. The nice thing about planting them yourself is you can plant them where you want them.

If you let them plant themselves, you don’t have as much choice as to where they end up. I’m going to be sure to keep mine in one specific area, so I won’t let them “walk” themselves around.

Egyptian walking onion "walking"
This one has gotten heavy enough to fall over and “walk”

Where Can I Get Onions to Plant?

This website is where I ordered my EWO last year. I can’t remember how many I ordered, but I think it was probably 25. That was PLENTY! You see, I don’t like onions, you couldn’t pay me enough to eat them, so it’s basically just my hubby.

I’m hoping to figure out how to dehydrate the large onions when I harvest in the fall and make onion powder (which I’ll use in cooking). That’ll definitely be in a future post if I figure it out!

If you’re trying to order EWO’s from somewhere else, it might be helpful to know their scientific names and also some other common names.

The EWO’s scientific name is Allium cepa, but you may see the variety name listed as either var. proliferum, var. bulbiferous or var. viviparum. Proliferum is used because they are prolific, bulbiferous because they produce bulbs, and viviparum because they produce new plants rather than seed.

You may also hear EWO’s referred to as tree onions, top onions or winter onions. The first two are pretty obvious, but the winter onion name comes from their extreme cold hardiness, with my friends even in Zone 3 able to grow these successfully!

When Can I Harvest and What Can I Do with Them?

Walking onion topsets
Here are the topsets after harvest

Well, as I mentioned, I already harvested a handful of the topsets because hubby said they were good (although pungent!). I decided to try to pickle them in the solution I use for my freezer pickles (you can read about those in this post, and if you’d like the specific recipe, go ahead and sign up to receive access to my Resource Library here).

When you do use them, no matter what you do with them, they do need to be peeled. Admittedly, this is a bit of a pain with the little ones, and they did make my eyes prickle a little, although I’m usually super sensitive to onion smell and I did ok with them.

I just had hubby try the pickled topsets this morning to give me a verdict as to whether or not they’re good. He ate one, said “no” when I asked if they were ok, then ate another big forkful of them. I’m guessing that means they’re good!

Pickled Walking Onions
Here they are pickled and in the jar. Aren’t they pretty?

He did say they mellowed a bit upon pickling, although they apparently still have a bit of “spice” even after pickling. He described them as very flavorful and just a little bit hot or spicy.

So, the short answer is, you can harvest the topsets whenever you’d like, although if you’d like your onions to “walk”, you’ll want to leave some until they get big enough to fall over. I’m letting a few get big just out of curiosity, although I’ll probably plant them specifically where I want them, as I mentioned.

You should wait to harvest the in-ground onions until late summer or early fall. These aren’t going to be huge, more like a shallot, but can be used or stored just like a “regular” onion. Just remember that if you dig the onion from the ground, you’ll need to replant or plant some of your topsets so you’ll have plants the following year.

Apparently, the greens are also edible and can be used much like chives. Just be careful not to cut off the stalks with onions at the top.

Walking onion topsets in garden
They’re already sprouting in the air!

How Do I Keep My Onions Healthy from Year to Year?

A layer of mulch each spring will be appreciated by your EWO’s, much as it is with other veggies and crop plants.

Every 3 years or so, or whenever your topsets get noticeably smaller, you’ll want to dig your onion plants up and divide them. This would be a great time to share with friends if you have too many!

Walking onion flowers
These are the flowers, although they’re almost past now

Note: If you notice you’re getting more flowers than onions in your topsets, this is another signal that you’ll need to divide your plants.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post on Egyptian Walking onions and that it was helpful for you. If you decide to try them, or you’ve grown them and have a wonderful recipe or tip you’d like to share, I’d love it if you’d comment below.

You’ll also notice some pinnable images below. Please pin to your Garden Vegetables or Gardening board so you can find this post for future reference.

Otherwise, thank you for reading, smile, and have a crazy organic day!

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EWO pin 1
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What are Egyptian Walking Onions and Why Do you Want them in your Garden?

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8 comments

Carol 08/31/2019 - 2:03 am

Loved your newsletter. It is so much fun to read .So refreshing. I have to try walking onions.

Reply
Dawn 09/03/2019 - 1:49 pm

They’re really fun to grow!

Reply
Sarita 07/26/2019 - 6:31 am

Lol – love the name! I’ve never heard of these but I’m adding them to my list of “to-try” veggies for next year!

Reply
Dawn 07/27/2019 - 4:33 pm

They’re really fun to grow!

Reply
Linda Carlson 07/23/2019 - 10:33 am

Had never heard of them .. Oh my .. for sure a must try.. Thanks for all the good information

Reply
Dawn 07/23/2019 - 8:28 pm

They’re really fun to grow because they look so funny as they twist and turn. The fact that they’re perennials isn’t a bad thing either.

Reply
Nikki 07/23/2019 - 10:15 am

Pinned that pic of the pickled topsets… that’s a must try!
🙂 gwingal

Reply
Dawn 07/23/2019 - 8:27 pm

Hubby says they’re yummy! I don’t like onions so I wouldn’t try them….but they are pretty.

Reply

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