Home » Allium – Allium Cepa, Allium Sativum, Allium Flavum

Allium – Allium Cepa, Allium Sativum, Allium Flavum

Allium neapolitanum (which means Onion of Napels) originated in Northern Italy. The snow-white flowers appear on strong and sturdy stems. Excellent for container planting and for forcing indoors. 

Members of the genus Allium have been cultivated for thousands of years—for their religious significance, medicinal properties and for their pungency and characteristic flavor (1). Most alliums are biennials or perennials, but they are commercially grown as an annual (except for seed production), and harvested primarily for their bulbs (except for chives). All alliums have certain similarities: very shallow root systems (1 foot in depth or less), sparse canopies, and frost tolerance. Most alliums are also highly sensitive to day-length.

The genus Allium (the Latin means “Garlic”) includes many garden plants that grow from bulbs or bulblike rhizomes.  Flowering onions produce showy flower clusters on strong stems, usually in dense spheres or ovals composed of hundreds of tiny blooms packed tightly together, but sometimes in loose, dangling or upright airy domes of larger flowers. 

Plant allium in the fall in northern zones, in the spring or fall in warmer areas.  Protect bulbs with winter mulch north to USDA zone 5.  Allium will tolerate heat an dry soil.  Plant your bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart and 4 to 5 inches deep in a well-drained soil.  Full sun is recommended for best blooms, but they will do fine in light shade.

According to the ancient Greek poet Homer, the magical properties of Allium moly allowed Ulysses to enter unharmed the lair of the sorceress Circe. Southern European folklore regards the plant as good luck and a protection against demons.

Allium moly is an ornamental allium, or flowering onion. It is a close relative of the famous edible alliums: Allium sativum, (garlic) and Allium cepa (the common cooking onion).

Man’s long appreciation of alliums may just be beginning to pay dividends. Modern research has confirmed garlic as a powerful antiseptic and suggests that it might help lower cholesterol and reduce hypertension. European homeopathic medics already use Allium ursinum, the Forest Onion, for that purpose. Flowering varieties too might have a contribution to make, for gardening is a recommended activity to help alleviate that most heinous of medical culprits: stress

Dry onions are a good crop for small-scale and part-time farming operations. Multiple markets exist for growers with small acreages (.5 to 5 acres). The various colors and types of mature bulbs (red, yellow, and white) allow growers to find market niches ( 2). The term dry onion is used to distinguish them from green onions, which are harvested while the tops are still green and usually before a large bulb has formed.

GARLIC (Allium sativum L.)

Garlic has been used for the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), high cholesterol (blood lipids), circulation problems (peripheral vascular disease) and the common cold (upper respiratory tract infections).

Garlic reportedly gave strength to the pyramid builders and courage to the Roman legions. Medicinally, it has served as a popular remedy for colds, sore throats and coughs; physicians and herbalists prescribed garlic as a diuretic and for intestinal disorders and rheumatism; and people ate garlic daily as protection against plagues. Garlic should be used with caution after surgery or serious injury since it may increase the chance of bleeding problems. Early American colonists relied on the plant to treat a variety of medical problems, while later settlers strapped garlic cloves to the feet of smallpox victims hoping to cure them.

Allium flavum

Onions also have been used medicinally for centuries. In the middle Ages the onion was used as a charm against evil spirits, the plague and infection. The onion was a favorite spring food of American Indians, providing a frontiersman with a good nose a telltale means of locating an Indian encampment.

Dry onions are a good crop for small-scale and part-time farming operations. Multiple markets exist for growers with small acreages (.5 to 5 acres). The various colors and types of mature bulbs (red, yellow, and white) allow growers to find market niches (2). The term dry onion is used to distinguish them from green onions, which are harvested while the tops are still green and usually before a large bulb has formed.

Although no specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet. They contain sulphur compounds (which give them their onion flavor) and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system.

The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles.

Allium cepa (common onion)

Allium cepa is used principally for “colds.” In the middle Ages the onion was used as a charm against evil spirits, the plague and infection.

Other Alliums

Shallots (A. cepa aggregatum)

Shallots can be grown all over the country, although most commercial production is done in the San Francisco Bay area and southern Louisiana. Shallots produce a cluster of bulbs somewhat like garlic. There are red-, brown-, and yellow-skinned varieties. Easily grown, they mature rapidly and will keep longer than bulbing onions, often remaining sound for 6-9 months after harvest

Leeks (A. ampeloprasum porrum)

Leeks are biennials grown as annuals. They are usually started indoors in February or March and transplanted in early spring. The larger the seedling to transplant, the larger the leek to harvest. An alternative is to direct-seed and let them over winter for a crop by late spring.

Egyptian Onions (A. cepa proliferum)

Also known as walking onion, winter onion, tree onion, and top onion, Egyptian onions produce a number of small sets at the end of their flower stalks, usually in early summer of their second year of growth. The taste of the bulb is quite astringent, so these onions are usually pickled. They are often grown for the leaves because the bulbs are so strong. Sets can be planted in late summer or early fall, since the bulbs are winter-hardy.

Scallions (A. fistulosum, A. cepa, A. ascalonicum and their crosses)

Scallions, commonly known as green onions, spring onions, bunch onions, Welsh onions, and Japanese bunching onions, are white shank onions grown for the fresh market. Green onions respond well to irrigation and fertilizer. The most successful growers manage both of these factors to keep onions growing rapidly. By “pushing” this crop, the green onions mature more rapidly and a grower can get more from a unit of land and reduce harvest labor by harvesting only once.

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