Gumbo Onions

There are two things that really get my gardening juices flowing–pass along plants and discovering a new, exceptionally good variety of something.  This year I received a true gift – a pass along onion that has turned out to be the best green onion I have ever grown.  The “Gumbo Onion” is everything you look for in a green onion.  The white bulbs are firm and spicy and the green leaves taste great and are firm enough to be easily chopped. 

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These “gumbo onions” have been grown in the same family for over 100 years

I got my “Gumbo Onions” from fellow Texas Gardener writer Patty Leander.  Patty got her starts from Chris Corby who is the editor of Texas Gardener.  Chris got these amazing onions in the mail from L. E. Andrews of Houston. L. E. sent Chris several of these amazing onion bulbs.  L.E. told Chris that the onions came from a family of Cajuns from south Louisiana who migrated to Texas.  They have been growing these onions in the same family for well over 100 years.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions.  Only they have no day length limitations.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions. Only they have no day length limitations.

Mr. Andrews’ “gumbo onions” are technically shallots.  Shallots (A. cepa var. aggregatum) are a variety of the onion family (Allium cepa) that reproduces primarily by division.  Plant a single shallot bulb and that bulb will create several “off sets” from the main bulb.  Because of this growth habit some people call them “garlic onions”

Each shallot bulb will reproduce by creating several "offsets" around the main bulb.

Each shallot bulb will reproduce by creating several “offsets” around the main bulb.

Shallots are not grown in large numbers in the U.S. I am beginning to see them in a few feed stores and nurseries in my area.  However, most of the varieties that I am aware of are still passed from gardener to gardener. Shallots are grown just like regular onions (except you don’t have to worry about any day length issues).  Plant them in the fall for an early spring harvest or in the early spring for a summer harvest.  Do not plant them in soil that has been recently manured.  Shallots should be planted with the root scar down and the pointy end up.  Stick them in the ground deep enough to just cover the top of the offset.  Now all you have to do is water and weed.    

L.E. Andrews' "gumbo onions" are the best green onions I have ever grown.

L.E. Andrews’ “gumbo onions” are the best green onions I have ever grown.

I am thankful for people like L.E. Andrews.  He, and others like him, are preserving our horticultural past by growing these old timey varieties that have slowly fallen out of favor with the nursery trade.  I am so glad that he decided to share his heirloom onions and their story with those of us that will appreciate them and hopefully keep them growing for another 100 years. 

BTW, if you live north of I10, it is time to get your onions and shallots in the ground!

10 thoughts on “Gumbo Onions

  1. These shallots look delicious! I love shallots, and have grown them in my garden for years now. (I’ve even shared some of my bulbs with friends.) But these that you feature look much better than those I’ve grown.

    I enjoyed your Texas Gardener article on tomato trellising. I’ve thought about changing how I trellis my tomatoes, so it was great to see your photos and read about your experience.

    I am looking forward to spring and the gardening it brings… I’ll bet you are too.

  2. Where might i get a get a bunch of those to start in my garden? I have been looking for a hearty garlic onion to keep going around the place. Im seriously would love motif you would contact me. I live in th 78629 zip code

  3. I love evergreen bunching onions, these gumbo onions are new to me, do they ever flower? I grow something similar in Scotland we call sybies, it never flowers & has a slightly red outer skin. Always a reliable year round onion, but I cannot positively identify it, grown for many years around here.
    Alex

    • The gumbo onions are awesome! In fact, I harvested and ate some last night. I am not sure if it flowers or not. I have never left them in the ground long enough to find out. I love shallots and I grow three varieties. One of them has a red outer skin like you mention and it has never flowered. It is very productive put only produces small onions about the size of a pencil or smaller. It is also extremely hot. The gumbo onions get much bigger. They are about the size of my thumb and they are very mild. Because of this they have quickly become my favorite.

      Thanks for sharing your shallot story and thanks for reading!

      • I am something of an onion obsessive, especially the multiplying types which do not need do be grown from seed. I have Scottish Sybies (ciboule), French Grey, Japanese Rakkyo, Jermor, Red Sun, Golden Gourmet, Dakota Red, Coral Mountain & Green Mountain. The Green Mountain from Kelly Winterton in Utah grow HUGE. Seems like the S.W, especially Louisiana has a tradition of shallots (bunching rather than the bulbing type), I bet there are are lots to be discovered out in the gardens of Cajun country, & maybe Texas too. I would love to get hold of some Gumbo onions if anyone is up for a swap. Picture of Green Mountain on my twitter @airpogardener the very first post, my blog http://www.air-potgardener.com about growing in containers.
        Alex

        • Hey Alex! Thanks for the comment. I too love dividing onions. I have an unidentified heirloom red shallot, gumbo onions, French Grey and the gumbo onion. I am about to harvest the gumbo onions and I would be more than happy to send you some bulbs when they dry out. If you want to send your address to to nestbrenham@gmail.com i will get them out when they dry

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