Welsh Onions / Japanese Bunching Onions (the Same Thing)

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Welsh Onions / Japanese Bunching Onions (the Same Thing)

Welsh onions and Japanese bunching onions are the same thing: Allium Fistulosum. They are recognisable from other onions because they have a round cross section when cutting through the leaves whereas the ordinary onion (Allium Cepa) has a ‘D’ shaped cross section.

Welsh onion is your bog standard type and can be found half a dozen in a small pot in any garden centre in the herb section. They grow big with the help of some compost or fertiliser but the bulb grows no bigger than a shallot and is eaten as a spring onion, leaf, shank and bulb.

The species in my experience (and I fell foul of this) is divided into two and not along the Welsh/Japanese thing. There are two main types, those that divide readily much like a shallot and those that grow into one bigger leak like plant that only rarely divides. For those of us who are interested in sustainability the dividing type is what interests us but the leek type is also cut and come again.

All of them are perennial but only a few will stand well over winter, even in my milder south-west English garden. Most varieties lose their greenery in winter and may rise again next Spring as long as it hasn’t been too cold or the soil too wet.

Unlike most other onions they stay green late in the summer and don’t die back.

Propagation

  • Division. The dividing types can be, well, divided and replanted. Eat half and replant half. I find they divide twice a year but then I am not the best gardener. YMMV.
  • By seed. It is easy to collect seed. I collected seed from just one bunch of plants and they produced hundreds of seeds which I sowed two months later and got a very high germination rate. The plant will put up a flower head on a hard stalk early in its second year. Wait until the flower starts going dry and you will see little black seeds. Shake them into a paper envelope and voila.

Varieties

  • Kyoto Market. One of the best. Divides freely, the greenery stands well over winter. Not the biggest though, but not small either.
  • Ishikura. Big Japanese leek type but doesn’t easily divide. Cut it to 1 cm above the earth and it will resprout again and again.
  • Welsh Onion. Divides regularly and quite big but disappears during winter. Most of them should come back early Spring but I have lost some in waterlogged soil. Plants easily bought in garden centres in the herb section.

I’m experimenting with other varieties including White Lisbon Winter Hardy which I hope does what it says on the tin.

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