That which we call an allium by any other name would smell as sweet…
You may not know them as alliums, but you have surely been growing, cooking, and enjoying these aromatic plants. The word allium stems from the New Latin genus name for garlic and encompasses hundreds of species including onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, and chives.
You can choose from edible and ornamental alliums when planning your seasonal garden. And conveniently, there are 40 allium species native to Southern California. Best to check your Farmers’ Almanac for the most hearty local varieties. These versatile bulbs can be planted throughout the year, but sow in fall and winter for a perfect spring and early summer harvest.
Flowering alliums like chives and ornamental varieties are a spectacular, visually pleasing perennial to add to your spring garden. Since alliums come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, you should be able to find the perfect option for your gardening space. And if you cultivate them properly, they will reward you by returning each year.
Different varieties of alliums require different methods of cleaning and storage.
Globe onions, garlic, and other mild onions should be harvested from late spring to mid-summer and cured for storage and use. When done correctly, these essential aromatics can be stored in a cool, dry place for months at a time.
Softer, more pungent varieties of alliums such as leeks, scallions, and spring onions should be harvested in the springtime. Since they are largely harvested from below the earth, leeks and other layered alliums require special care when cleaning. Remember to rinse in between each layer before drying and storing. You can cut leeks down the center for better access and even give them another rinse after slicing just to make sure all of the dirt has been removed. Store these green onion varieties in the fridge for up to a week.
It’s hard to count the number of times I have simply been sautéing onions and someone asks, ‘What are you cooking? It smells amazing!” Onions and garlic are the foundation for classic recipes across many cultures and cuisines. Raw alliums can provide a punchy, bite of flavor to dishes like ceviche, salsa, and tzatziki. Roast whole garlic to deepen the flavor and soften the cloves. Pickled onions and garlic are a simple and delicious addition to your favorite recipes. Leeks are wonderful fried or sauteed. Use chives and scallions to add a pop of vibrant color and flavor. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to alliums in the kitchen. So remember to check your local farm stands and markets from spring through fall and take advantage of the versatility alliums have to offer.
Don't miss the Spring Green Soup recipe from Kitchen Contentment with wild garlic below.
When ready to eat scallions like the ones Liz Murphy and Erik Baldwin found at the MainStreet Oceanside Morning Farmers' Market, trim the greener parts off and save the white ends with roots intact. You'll eat the green parts—and you can get more green parts for later by placing the end in a clear cup or vase with a little bit of water. Set them in a spot with decent sunlight to keep them sprouting for days. A quick daily rinse and refresh in cool water will prevent them from getting too slimy or smelly. Replanting ones with hearty roots like these in a pot on the balcony works well too, and you simply snip off green stalks when you need scallions with a pair of scissors. They will continue to grow and can be harvested for at least another round or two.