Spring onions Allium fistulosum are really just like thick chives. While all manner of onions were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, there’s a reference to spring onions in Chinese literature dating back over two thousand years.
Spring or green onions have up to 40cm long, hollow green, delicate stalks and small, very slender, white bulbs. The bulb of a spring onion is really only slightly defined.
Spring onions emerge from the ground early in their lives. Sow them from very early spring until at least the end of March. Usually they are ready for picking about seven weeks later.
What’s good about spring onions is that they’re mild tasting because they haven’t been in the ground long enough to gain much pungency.
Spring onions can be used sliced or chopped raw in green salads or creamy salads like potato salad, pasta salads, or on top baked.
A versatile plant with tube-like hollow leaves spring onions grow from cold regions right through to hot, tropical areas.
They prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil and are extremely hardy and pest resistant.
Grow them in full sun, and like all onions they need an open sunny site, and fertile, free draining soil. Raised garden beds are the best if you have clay soil.
Sow spring onions anytime in Australia, because unlike other onions, day length doesn’t affect their growth. Plus, spring onions aren’t affected by frost.
Raising them in a punnet or tray seems to work best, then transplant them when they’re several cm high or as half as thick as a pencil.
Because these onion seeds are planted densely, they bunch together so that the bulbs have little chance of fully maturing and rounding completely out.
When planting into the garden, dig lots of compost through the topsoil first and then use a dibbler to make holes 10cm apart.
Place a seedling in each hole and gently push the soil around the rootball. Water the seedlings very lightly but if they fall over, don’t worry as they will soon stand back up. Keep your onions weed free. Water them when dry weather is expected, otherwise ease back a bit.
In about two months, your spring onions should be ready to eat. They’re ready when the leaves are standing tall, green and succulent.
If you want to harvest an entire bulb, use a fork to dig around the plant to keep from damaging it accidentally. You can also just use scissors to cut the leaves and use them as a garnish in salads or casseroles for flavour.
Spring onions belong to the class known as bunching onions and have a mild, sweet flavour; the green shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten.
Spring onions must be harvested when the stalks are still green and you eat the whole plant, except the hairy roots.
There is never any hint of a bulb in a spring onion so you can’t leave the plants in the ground for the tops to dry off — they will, but you won’t be able to save any bulbs. If you forget to pick your spring onions, and they’ve started to flower.
Let them keep flowering and save the seed. The flowers are attractive to bees and other useful insects.
The seeds can also be sprouted. You want to grow your own spring onions for freshness alone, because the ones you buy from the supermarket are only fresh for a handful of days.
And another tip
After you’ve picked your spring onions from the ground, when preparing them in your kitchen, save the rooted bottoms and replant them. Simply cut off the bottom 3cm of your green onions and plant them in damp soil, or keep them in a jar of water in a sunny spot. You’ll get a new lot of spring onions in a couple of weeks.
Why are they good for you?
Spring onion is: Low in Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Cholesterol
High in Dietary Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. Whew!
If you have never tried growing onions before, why not give them a go this year?
They are a versatile, easy to grow vegetable that can be grown from seed most of the year.
Happy Spring onion growing everyone!