My landlords gave me a start of this plant (pictured). They didn’t explain what it is. I have looked in the seed catalogs and don’t see anything like it. Are the little bulbs edible?
— Peggy Bair, Summitville, Ind.
Excellent photos! This distinctive perennial onion is known as Egyptian, tree or top-set onion, so-named for the cluster of aerial bulblets, called bulbils, produced at the tip of the leaves. The bulbils are edible and are also used for propagating new plants. The plants also produce edible, bunching-type onions at the base of the leaves in the soil.
To propagate tree onions, you can either leave the bulbils in place, where their weight bends the leaves to the soil. Or you can gather them as they mature and either plant immediately or store until early fall. If planted in early fall and allowed to overwinter in the garden, the bulbs begin growth early in spring and can be pulled for an early supply of green onions.
Rosie Lerner is the Purdue Extension consumer horticulturist and a consumer of Tipmont REMC. Questions about gardening issues may be sent to: “Ask Rosie,” Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224, or ec@ElectricConsumer.org.