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Vermont Garden Journal: Some Unusual Onions To Try This Year

Selwa Baroody
Torpedo onions have long, thin bulbs and can be eaten raw when young in salads or allowed to mature into a sweet cooking onion.

For years onions were one of those crops I avoided growing in the garden. They're cheap and plentiful in markets. Why take up space with such a common veggie? But then I started experimenting with unusual varieties and now I'm hooked on onions.

Look for some of these unusual onions in catalogs or your local greenhouse. There's nothing like the taste of fresh onion tops in springtime. One favorite is the "Red Beard" scallion or bunching onion. I love the red coloring of these scallions. Grow them indoors from seed under lights and you can even harvest small crops this winter or transplant seedlings into the garden in early spring for a late spring harvest.

You can also grow cippolini onions as a scallion or a small cooking onion. These flat-topped Italian beauties are great for cooking because they have more sugar than regular onions so caramelize well. Varieties come in white, yellow and red colors.

Torpedo onions look like their name. The elongated, thin bulbs can be eaten raw when young in salads or allowed to mature into a sweet cooking onion. This Southern Italian heirloom has red stems and bulbs making it attractive braided and hung in a kitchen. It's not a keeper though, so eat up!

Most of these speciality onions should be started from seed indoors in February in our climate. However, some greenhouses may offer plants in spring as well. Sow seed under grow lights in two-inch diameter pots with about six-to-10 seedlings per pot. Keep them well watered and lightly fertilized. As the tops get tall, give them a haircut and eat the trimmings in salads.

Two weeks before your last frost date, plant seedlings six-inches apart, in the garden or a container filled with well-drained, rich soil. Harvest young plants for fresh greens as you thin.

Now for this week's tip: cut back geraniums growing indoors as they get leggy. Root the cuttings to make more plants. They should start flowering again soon.

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