The long delayed (by COVID) opening of the Onion Garden Chicago took place at the Ringve Botanical Gardens in Trondheim on Friday. Here we grow over 400 different Alliums including over 100 botanical species and some 60 old (with a history from 60-980 years; yes the oldest history goes back to 1040!) Norwegian onions. To officially open the garden, Elise Moltzau Wanderås from the Norwegian Agricultural Authority (LDir) was given Felco garden shears to clip Allium pskemense flowering stems and our new sign was simultaneously revealed (received the day before)!
Thanks to all that donated onions to the collection in my project (2008-2016) funded by the Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre and LDir, to Vibekke Vange and the staff at Ringve who gave me the chance and support to create this garden and make a dream come true, to volunteer Kim Wallace, daughter Hazel and Meg Anderson for help maintaining the garden! Thanks also to KVANN (kvann.no) for support for purchasing seed and bulbs for the garden and support for sending plant material from the garden to members each autumn!
Notice that we used an Alliophone (Allium microphone) under the event (patented by Søren Holt of Danish Seed Savers some years ago!):
I don’t often post here about my other two gardens, the community garden at Væres Venner and the Onion Garden Chicago at the Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim. The onion garden is nicely maturing and will be officially opened this summer on 26th August, 6 years since I started work creating a garden to house a national collection of old Norwegian perennial vegetable onions collected throughout the country, some 100 botanical species from around the world and many cultivars too! Here’s a couple of videos showing the garden on 25th June 2023 close to peak flowering, although there will be flowering Alliums all the way from May to the first heavy frosts in October / November! Tasty, beautiful and a great place to study pollinators! Can you smell it? There are now over 500 pictures from the garden in this large Facebook album
I was showing a journalist around the winter edible garden and cellar this morning and dug up some nodding (Chicago) onions (Allium cernuum) and picked a few Hablitzia shoots, so why not turn it into lunch! I sliced an oca (Oxalis tuberosa) in with the vegetables. Scambled Habby Chicago eggs is simple gourmet midwinter food from garden to table in no time!
I’d sent a few bulbs of twisted-leaf garlic (Allium obliquum) to members of Norwegian Seed Savers’ (KVANN) guild for Alliums and had a few left overover, so I fried them up for lunch and ate them with cheese on toast. A delicious sweetish taste after heating in olive oil. The onions are also a good size! This was one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants!
One of my favourite perennial onions are persian shallots, Allium stipitatum and I’ve blogged about them several times in the past: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=persian+shallot This is one of the earliest onions to appear in the spring and they flower and die down in the course of June. July is the best time to harvest the bulbs (I’ve often harvested them too late when they¨¨’ve already started sprouting in autumn). I harvested one plant this week and the bulbs were in perfect condition. I was once again struck by the yield (although it is probably two years since I harvested this plant). I replanted 3 of the largest bulbs. I usually dry the bulbs as they do in Iran, but this time I ate some fresh. They are surprisingly mild tasting and I used them fried in an omelette. Below the pictures is a Norwegian article on the persian shallot which I wrote in 2021.
Please download this Norwegian article on persian shallots:
The best of vegetables ready to harvest this week: blanched sea kale (Crambe maritima), blanched lovage (Levisticum officinale) and nettles (Urtica dioica)! Delicious.
IT’S DANDINOODLE TIME HERE IN MALVIK: one of the year’s many highlights!
This is by far my earliest dandelion to come into growth in March. It was sent to me as seed from the Alps in Switzerland, following a talk I gave there and was supposed to be similar to the moss-leaved dandelion but the leaves weren’t similar at all. These are from one plant! I’m trying to fine out which species it is…
3. Allium paradoxum var paradoxum isn’t a plant you’ll want in your garden as this form has bulbils which can spread invasively. I was sent this 20 years ago from a garden in Sweden as Allium triquetrum but it wasn’t that one. I never considered either of these invasive Alliums as hardy enough to be a problem here and this one has slowly colonised the space around my oldest Hablitzia tamnoides. With warmer winters I have started more aggressive harvesting of this one.I now harvest both the young leaves, the tops, in particular the bulbils to keep it under control. They are delicious both raw in mixed salads and cooked.
Various Allium species are the hardiest of edible plants either staying green all winter (e.g., Allium cernuum and Allium carinatum) or sprouting very early and able to withstand some frost. With a minimum forecast of -6C tomorrow after a very mild March, it will be interesting to see whether any of these early shooters are damaged. Here are a selection of pictures of Alliums and other early spring shoots in this weeks snow.
Allium cernuum (nodding onion / prærieløk) is hardy more or less anywhere people live and stays green all winter here. It’s been mild with snow coming and going for several weeks and there’s no frost in the soil. I dug up a clump yesterday to use in the kitchen and replanted a few. Some were used in a salad and others will be used in any dishes with onion in the next couple of weeks (Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean pasta with green sauce….anything really).
Like Sherpa onion or Nepalese onion Allium wallichii, which features in my book Around the World in 80 plants, chiugok (small bird’s garlic) as Allium macrantum is known in Lithang, Tibet is the latest emerging Alliums in my garden. I often wonder if they are still alive when, in a cold spring they haven’t emerged by the end of May, but both species have overwintered now for almost 20 years.
I’m not sure where my oldest plants came from but my second accession came from Vojtec Holubec’s seedlist, collected in Szechuan in China. It’s native to Bhutan, Sikkim, Gansu, Shaanxi, as well as Szechuan and Tibet and grows in wet places at elevations of 2700–4200 metres (Flora of China).
By early July the old roots are withering away and new roots are growing as the flower scape appears:
The flowers are gorgeous hanging on long pedicels. Note that the flower colour varies and the Szechuan accession is pink with green pedicels and has relatively many flowers.
One of my multi-species salads with Allium macranthum flowers in the centre:
Seed heads on 6th September:
Seeds ready to share or trade:
Ethnobotanical records I searched Google Scholar for evidence of Allium macrantum being used traditionally for food and there were indeed a few ethnobotanical studies recording its use as a food plant. Although not the most popular food Allium in the Himalayas, it is reported to have been one of several species eaten both in Arunachal Pradesh in North East India, the Eastern Hills of India (along with more commonly used Allium wallichii, Allium hookeri and Allium fasciculatum) and used as a spice with meat in South Central Tibet. In Lithang, chiugok “is cleaned and cut into small pieces. It is mixed with butter, tea, roasted barley flour (tsampa), salt, and chilly. Tsampa may not be added. The sauce so obtained is eaten with Tibetan dumplings (mokmok) and fried meat-filled pancakes (shapakle)” (in Traditional knowledge of wild food plants in a few Tibetan communities). The taste is in my experience relatively strong and therefore best in mixed salads and cooked dishes. Allium macranthum has also been moved into gardens as an ornamental and has also been used medicinally, including, along with other Allium species, as a cure for altitude sickness!
Years ago, I was at a work meeting in San Francisco with my colleague Harald Krogstad who sadly died in 2020. It’s very easy to put a date on this as we flew back on the day of the September 11 attacks, almost 20 years ago. After the meeting we hired a car and drove up to the Sierra Nevada and walked for a couple of days in the Tuolumne Meadows area. I remember finding a patch of a large Allium that I later found out had to be the tall swamp onion or Pacific onion (Allium validum). A few seeds from those plants later germinated in Malvik and this became one of the 80 plants in my book Around the World in 80 plants. A few years ago I renovated my pond area and associated damp area where I was growing this onion which grows in large clumps in damp meadows at elevations of 1200-3350 m in the Sierra Nevada. It was finally possible to harvest again this year and yesterday I used it in scrambled eggs. The flowers umbels are unusually small for such a large Allium and for that reason has never become popular as an ornamental. See an earlier blog post with pictures that didn’t make it into the book here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=5994
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden