Welcome to the rest of the allium family! Green onions, leeks, and shallots are all popular garden additions and kitchen staples. Depending on your familiarity with these veggies, you may be ready to start growing right away – or you may have some questions. On this page we will give a general overview and, as always, if you think of anything we’ve missed, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Green onions are known by many names, including:
- bunching onions,
- salad onions,
- and in Canada and the UK, spring onions.
However, be careful, because in some places a “spring onion” is NOT truly a green onion though it does look and taste similar and can be used somewhat interchangeably.
The primary difference is that a true “green onion” is generally either a regular onion plant, that is harvested early or it is a different type of onion that was never meant to form a bulb. These types have long green tops and are known for their milder onion taste, with the most intense flavors concentrating in their white bottom flesh.
On the other hand, true “spring onions” will have a small bulb on the bottom portion which can be used similarly to a pearl onion, and can be red or white depending upon the plant’s variety. They are sweeter than regular onions, but their green ends have a more intense flavor than that of typical green onions. This difference is most apparent when the vegetables are eaten raw. If they are cooked, the flavors become significantly milder. Scallions are the green, stalk portions of either type of these alliums.
While green onions are relatively common, leeks do not typically enjoy the same familiarity. Often known as one of the more costly vegetables in the grocery store, leeks are a favorite among chefs but rarely purchased for the home. This makes their delicate flavor that much more of a treat when you can grow them in your own backyard! With a taste that is similar to that of an onion but much milder yet complex, leeks make an excellent addition to soups and stews and are also delicious on their own, such as right off the grill. In the Middle Ages, leeks were even prepared with honey as an all-natural cold remedy.
Frequently said to have a flavor reminiscent of a cross between common garlic and a sweeter, milder onion, the fragrant shallot rounds out our dive into the allium family. Somewhat resembling its relative, the red onion, shallot bulbs tends to have burgundy, copper or gray skin. However, once you open the shallot, you’ll quickly see it more closely resembles a bulb of garlic with its multiple cloves. Unlike onions, shallots do not grow in rings. A large shallot bulb may contain four to six cloves, while a small bulb will likely contain up to three cloves. When cooking, the way to account for shallots in a recipe is to use one entire bulb (all of the shallot cloves) for each shallot called for in your recipe’s instructions.
Start Growing Green Onions, Leeks, and Shallots
One notable characteristic of these members of the allium family is that gardeners love them because they are such easy crops to grow at home! Known for their ability to thrive whether started from seed, “set” or transplant. Moreover, whether you plant them indoors or outside, alliums are willful germinators that you can expect to thrive for years and years.