Walking Onions

Years ago someone gave me some onion bulbs to plant, so I did. I’m not a huge lover of onions, particularly raw or crunchy ones that leave flavors lingering in my mouth for days. I prefer chives nine times out of ten for my onion of choice because they’re small and mild. But these particular onions were called “walking onions” and the name intrigued me. I had no idea what to expect from them, so I invited them into my garden beds, tucking the bulbs around the sides of two of my garden boxes.

Each spring it’s fun to watch these bulbs send up their strong green shoots. They don’t just come up, they Keep Coming Up. These onions send up a single hollow green shaft that’s about three feet tall. Mid summer that shaft is topped with a Dr. Seuss-ish purple flower that makes me smile. But in the fall, the best show begins. As the flower bloom wanes, a clump of small baby bulbs grows on the tip top of each tall shaft. They look comical and out of place up there above the tallest ground plants in the garden. These clumps grow in size as the plants tire out at the end of the summer. The green stalks begin to fade into straw gold and then they lose their strength to stand, becoming dry and brittle, but the bulbs on the top are healthy and well. When Fall comes and winds blow, the dry stalks begin to buckle and fall under the weight of the babies on top, landing these little ones in the soil around them. They call this walking. The momma stalk bends to plant its babies in the warm brown earth, walking them just the right distance away to where they can burrow down during winter and reappear in the Spring as new onion plants. It’s great entertainment all season long.

Garden  (2)

The last few weeks we’ve been winterizing our yard and the garden beds. I broke off all the still-standing golden stalks, cleaning out my beds, wishing I had room for each clump of baby bulbs to take root. The truth is I never eat these onions, I just enjoy watching them.

I like what they teach me–that before we fade and become brittle and die, we must pass something on for the next generation. We must somehow push all our energies into those who will come after us and then walk them away from us and into their own fertile spot of soil. They are essential for our lives to live on, as a new life that keeps giving after we have gone. What a beautifully interesting example are these, my walking onions.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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