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.
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.
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”
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.
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!