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Alliums— the onion family.

Allium is the family name for the widespread group of plants including: onions, garlic, chives, spring onions, leeks and shallots in all its varieties.

It is one of the most commonly used culinary plants across the world. It also has a long history of  medicinal use. Garlic in particular is used for its antiseptic and antibiotic qualities. It is reknowned for keeping colds away as well as vampires. ;)

Alliums are easy to grow. It requires a sunny or part shade position and rich, moist well drained soil though it will tolerate poorer soil.

Propogation varies depending on the type being grown. Onions are usually grown by seed planted in the cooler months of the year. Garlics, tree onions & shallots are planted by bulbs; the individual cloves; whilst it is dormant.

Chives and spring onions which are a bunching onion can be grown from either seed or separation of the clump.

Essentially all parts of the plant can be eaten. Generally it is the bulb of garlics, onion & shallots which are eaten but the leaves & flowers also make tasty, milder flavour addition to many meals.

Harvest the bulbs of alliums when the stalk has died off above the ground. Spring onion & chive leaves can be snipped off just above the ground at anytime. By harvesting just the tops the remaining roots will continue growing the plant. I have had year round supply of spring onions from the same original seeding for three years coming on four. (Plants grown and harvested like this are known as 'cut & come again' plants in Permaculture circles.)

Alliums have a flower which looks like a ball on a stick. It's actually a cluster of small individual flowers which forms the 'ball' . Flowers range in colour from white through the pink and mauve shades. It is an attractive addition to flower gardens as well as delicious in food. The flowers can also be used in fresh & dried floral arrangements.

In the garden alliums serve well as companions to many plants which benefit from its insect repellant  and anti viral qualities. Chives are a traditional companion to apples and around roses.

The culinary uses for alliums is vast. I've heard it said of savoury foods 'onions with everything'. Indeed its versatility and variety of forms lends it to being used in just about every way food is prepared: raw, boiled, roasted, fried & pickled.

An all time favourite allium accompaniment is garlic bread.

Here's my recipe.


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Susan Greentree

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