What’s a Potato Onion you ask? Well it’s definitely not a potato, not even distantly related to those starchy tubers. No, it’s not some weird genetic cross between a potato and an onion.
Potato onions are actually a type of onion that has more in common with a shallot than either a potato or an onion, so don’t ask me how it got its name.
Why Grow Potato Onions
One thing is for sure; if you’ve struggled to grow onions in your garden, then potato onions may be the perfect solution, and an easy growing alternative that will have you harvesting plenty of flavorful onions right from your own backyard.
Potato Onions aren’t as common as the regular onions that you find at the grocer, but they’re much more convenient for the gardener and offer unique qualities and subtle flavors to the gourmet cook in the kitchen.
You’ll also have less concern with issues such as selecting varieties that are best suited for your soil type, growing region, and day length, which you often experience when growing the standard types of onions.
Potato Onion Characteristics
In appearance and growth habits potato onions resemble shallots and other multiplier onions such as Egyptian Walking Onions. Their advantages and unique characteristics include the following:
- Potato Onions are easy to grow and are best when planted during the fall season. They will over winter right in the garden and send up early spring growth as soon as the weather begins to warm.
- These multipliers are very productive and also resistant to insect pests. Rather than produce a single onion, potato onions produce bulbs in clusters of three to five onions which are connected at their base just like shallots.
- Each cluster of onions will contain an assortment of sizes, all of which can be eaten or replanted into the garden.
- Potato Onions are versatile; you can harvest leaf growth in early spring to use as “spring greens.” While the mature bulbs keep extremely well and can be stored in the home through the winter months until they are needed for cooking.
- The bulbs themselves are much larger than shallots and are easy to peel and prepare for kitchen use. Potato Onions have a mild, sweet taste that I prefer over regular onions, and will impart more of a distinctly gourmet flavor to your favorite recipes when used in place of onions.
- Once you plant Potato Onions in your garden you’ll have an everlasting and continuous supply. It couldn’t be any easier to save your own seed to use when replanting. All you do is set aside a mix of the best bulbs that you harvest to replant in the fall.
Challenging Aspect of Growing Potato Onions
Grow, harvest, cure, and store your Potato Onions in the same manner and using the same techniques that you would follow when growing shallots. You’ll find that Potato Onions are just as easy to grow as shallots and garlic in the home garden.
You may be wondering; if Potato Onions are as good as I’m making them out to be, why haven’t you heard more about them? I’m not sure why they aren’t more popular, but my guess would be that it’s because they aren’t as easy to grow in a commercial farm environment. And of course the seed suppliers cater to the needs and desires of the commercial growers who purchase larger amounts of seed.
In fact, your biggest challenge in growing Potato Onions will probably be locating the seed for your first planting. There just aren’t many suppliers that market potato onions, and those that do usually sell out quickly. Reserve seed early for summer shipments and fall planting.
Fortunately as I mentioned earlier, obtaining seed is a one time event and you won’t have to repurchase seed every year. So if you’re interested in trying this interesting and easy to grow gourmet vegetable locate a source to purchase seed stock and don’t forget to set aside part of your initial harvest for future plantings.
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