Herbs & Plants

Allium cepa proliferum

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Botanical Name:Allium cepa proliferum
Family : Alliaceae
Genus : Allium.
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Species: A. proliferum

Synonyms : Allium cepa viviparum – (Metzg.)Alef. Allium x proliferum – (Moench.)Schrad. ex Willd.

Common Name: Tree Onion ,Top Onions, Topset Onions, Walking Onions, or Egyptian onions

Habitat: Original habitat is obscure. It grows on Cultivated Beds;

Description :
Bulb growing to 1.2m.
It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects.
The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

The tree onion plant resembles a green onion plant, or more generally a shallot. Rocambole, a top setting garlic, is alike, but it has flat leaves instead of the hollow leaves of the tree onion.

Of course the part used is the bulb. The Tree Onion is an unusual type of Onion that produces bulblets at the top of a strong stem about 2 feet high. Instead of seeds, a cluster of small bulblets appear which are green at first, but turn into a brownish-red colour which are about the size of hazel nuts. The stems bear so many of these bulblets so heavily that they require support to keep them upright.

Tree Onion bulblets will sprout and grow while still on the original stalk, which may bend down under the weight of the new growth, giving rise to the name, walking onion. Recent research has shown that the tree onion may be a cross between Allium cepa, the cultivated onion, and Allium fistulosum, the Welsh onion (Some sites may currently treat the Tree Onion as Allium cepa Proliferum Group). This phenomenon of forming bulblets instead of flowers is also seen in garlic and other various wild species of Allium. Bulblets in tree onions are generally very small, usually within .5 cm to 3 cm in diameter, although sizes may differ out of this range, from time to time. A similar relative to the tree onion is the pearl onion and a few other, nameable varieties.

Prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil[1] but succeeds in most soils that are in good condition[16]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 to 8.3. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply. Some modern works have moved this plant from A. cepa, seeing it as being of hybrid origin with A. fistulosum and therefore renaming in A. x proliferum. The tree onion is a genuinely perennial form of A. cepa that is sometimes grown in the herb garden for its edible bulbils. Plants rarely if ever produce seed, instead the flowering head is comprised of a number of small onions or bulbils. Plants are propagated by means of these bulbils or by dividing the main bulb that grows underground. By no means a heavily productive plant, though the bulbils are very well flavoured and the plant is fairly easily grown. Its main problem is that slugs seem to be attracted to it and can eat to death even well-established plants. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other. Said to be immune to onion root fly. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

The Tree Onion is propagated from the small stem bulbs that are produced, planted 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart, in rows 8 inches apart. This is a general rule of thumb and I planted mine approximately like this.I planted them in a small no-dig garden that I built and grew tomatoes in, in the previous year. I had re-done the bed with some more straw, soil and blood and bone and was perfect for the onions. I also planted some of the giant garlic in the same beds and I will hopefully feature these in an article later on.

Harvest bulbils in late summer and replant immediately or store them in a cool dry frost-free place and plant them out in late winter or early spring. Division of the bulbs after the leaves die down in late summer.

A very hardy cultivar of Canadian origin, distinguished by its vigorous growth and the rapidity with which the bulbils commence to grow without being detached from the top of the stem. The bulbils divide into tiers, the second set of bulbils producing green shoots, leaves or barren stems to bring the height of the plant to over 75cm
‘McCullar’s White Topset’
This form produces a number of white bulbs below the ground about 25cm or more in diameter, plus pea-sized bulbils at the top of the flower stalk. The larger bulbs are used for eating, the bulbils are used for replanting. It is used primarily as a source of greens when other onions are dormant.

‘Moritz Egyptian’
Similar to the typical tree onion, but the bulbs are a deeper colour (red-purple) and the topsets are slightly larger than most strains. An unusual strain that will sometimes produce sets in the middle of the stalk.
‘Norris Egyptian’

This cultivar is less pungent and more productive than other strains

Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.

The plant forms small bulbs at the top of the flowering stem, these can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a strong onion flavour and are often used as pickled onions or added to salads. As long as the bulbils are dried properly at harvest time, they store well. Bulb – raw or cooked. The bulb can be up to 4cm in diameter and has a strong onion flavour. Chopped into slices, it makes a good addition to salads and can also be used as a vegetable or as a flavouring in cooked foods. Leaves – raw or cooked. A strong onion flavour, it makes a nice flavouring in salads though it should not be harvested in quantity because this would reduce the yield of bulbils. The leaves are produced from late autumn, though we have found that harvesting them at this time will often encourage diseases such as mildew.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Anthelmintic; Antiinflammatory; Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Carminative; Diuretic; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Hypoglycaemic; Hypotensive; Lithontripic; Skin; Stomachic; Tonic.

Although rarely used specifically as a medicinal herb, the onion has a wide range of beneficial actions on the body and when eaten (especially raw) on a regular basis will promote the general health of the body. The bulb is anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, lithontripic, stomachic and tonic. When used regularly in the diet it offsets tendencies towards angina, arteriosclerosis and heart attack. It is also useful in preventing oral infection and tooth decay. Baked onions can be used as a poultice to remove pus from sores. Fresh onion juice is a very useful first aid treatment for bee and wasp stings, bites, grazes or fungal skin complaints. When warmed the juice can be dropped into the ear to treat earache. It also aids the formation of scar tissue on wounds, thus speeding up the healing process, and has been used as a cosmetic to remove freckles.

Other Uses:-
Cosmetic; Dye; Hair; Polish; Repellent; Rust.

The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent and can also be rubbed onto the skin to repel insects. The plant juice can be used as a rust preventative on metals and as a polish for copper and glass. A yellow-brown dye is obtained from the skins of the bulbs. Onion juice rubbed into the skin is said to promote the growth of hair and to be a remedy for baldness. It is also used as a cosmetic to get rid of freckles. The growing plant is said to repel insects and moles. A spray made by pouring enough boiling water to cover 1kg of chopped unpeeled onions is said to increase the resistance of other plants to diseases and parasites.

Known Hazards :-  There have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of this plant. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.