In the Garden:
Scallions are sending up new growth now and are ready for harvesting, even in the snow.
Scads of Scallions
Our intermittent 50F weather has been perfect for getting scallions, chives, garlic chives, and wild onions growing in the garden. I love them all, but the scallions are a particularly fresh-tasting delight at this time of year. Unlike onions, scallions never form bulbs and are specifically grown for their pencil-like stems and long, hollow, round leaves.
Also known as green onions, Welsh onions, ciboules, and Oriental or Japanese bunching onions, scallions are botanically Allium fistulosum. They're a hardy perennial in our area. Although reference books say they are hardy to about 0F, I had much lower temperatures earlier this winter, and the scallions survived unscathed.
In Western cultures, it's the bulb onion that predominates, and the scallion is thought of as a condiment. But in Asia, the scallion is king. These white-stemmed onions were mentioned in Chinese literature as long ago as 100 B.C. They probably reached Europe sometime during the Middle Ages. The Anglo-Saxon word for "foreign" is "welsh," hence one of the common names. Scallions actually have no specific connection with Wales.
How Scallions Grow
Scallions are grown from seed or by making divisions off a mature plant. Three- or four-year-old clumps can be dug up and divided now until early summer. Start seed in spring or late summer, either in seed-germinating trays indoors or sown directly into the garden. It's usually best to sow several seeds in each seed tray cup. Germination takes about 2 weeks. Space the clumps of seedlings about 10 inches apart. Scallions grow best in fertile, well-drained garden soil or even in containers.
Harvest and use scallions at just about any stage. Even 2-inch seedlings can be used to spice up a salad or garnish a soup. As long as you have enough planted, you can harvest scallions nine months a year in our region.
In most seed catalogs, you'll probably see only one or two varieties, such as 'Evergreen Long White Bunching' and 'Beltsville Bunching'. In Asia, there are a number of varieties. A new extra-tall variety developed in England is 'Guardsman', while 'White Lisbon' is particularly mild flavored. For fun some year, you might want to try the scallions with several layers of reddish leaves, such as 'Red Beard'.
Cooking with Scallions
It may seen odd to mention ways to use scallions, since most people just chop them up and toss them in a salad. But many Asian dishes include scallions. No stir-fry would be complete without them. A few slices are delicious sprinkled on top of egg-drop soup. Simmer several with a soup broth for a few minutes before serving for a strong scallion flavor.
Scallions enhance any egg dish, be it omelet, frittata, scramble, or souffle. Try scallions braised in vermouth or grilled. Chop and mix them with glazed carrots, steamed peas, sauteed spinach, or green beans and water chestnuts. Add some minced scallions to salsas and fresh relishes and put them in corn muffins and biscuits. A comfort food in our house is boiled potatoes and cottage cheese sprinkled with chopped scallions.
If you've never grown scallions, give them a try this year. They're as easy to grow as they are versatile in the kitchen.
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