Growing Salad Onions
Saladare also known as spring onions, but indoors can be grown throughout the year to provide tasty flavouring for salads and cooked dishes.
Salads, of course, are not the only destiny of these small onions. You can use them chopped as an alternative toin omelettes and cheese dishes and the green parts also make a tasty garnish which you may like to use in place of and other herbs, a useful variation particularly good for meat dishes. While young and slender, salad onions are mildly flavoured; as they mature and the stems thicken at the base, the taste acquires more ‘bite’. The white bulbous tip is excellent sliced into salad to add piquancy.
Large-bulb cooking onions are not suitable for container gardening, as they need the space of the open garden to develop their bulb and root systems. If you want onion-flavoured seasoning for raw vegetables, cheeses and cooked dishes, it is worth cultivating a large pot of chives in addition to your salad onions. You could also try growing the silver-skinned varieties of small ‘button’ onions for pickling.
Selecting salad onions for indoor growing The best variety to grow is White Lisbon, an established favourite. A newer type is Ishikura, which is a straight-growing form from tip to root, with no bulbous base. Salad onions are specially bred for the salad bowl and however cultivated do not develop the large bulbs suitable for cooking.
Sowing and growing
To ensure a continuous supply of salad onions, sow seed at fortnightly intervals from early spring onwards. Salad onions are not fussy about the kind of. Your usual potting medium is perfectly adequate. Sow the seeds as thinly as possible – which is difficult as the seeds are very small – and be prepared to thin out the as they grow. Use deep containers such as pots and – a shallow tray does not give enough room for the root systems to develop. Germination takes between two and three weeks.
As the plants develop, water freely and do not allow the soil to dry out; but be careful not to go to the other extreme and allow the containers to become waterlogged, as this will cause the plants’ roots to rot.
If you want the onions to develop strongly and grow thick stems with a good strong flavour, thin the plants out to 3in (8cm) apart. If the containers are large enough to allow more than one row of plants, see that these are not less than 6in (15cm) apart. You can carry out the thinning gradually, to reduce the amount of wastage from your original sowing. Make the use of the young plants in your cooking as they are pulled, removing them gradually until the remaining plants are evenly spaced. The thinnings provide mild salad onions as the crop develops, and those left to thicken and grow larger will contribute a stronger taste to salads and cooked dishes. Encourage strong growth with an occasional liquid feed.
Seed sown in late summer and early autumn will keep you provided with salad onions right through the winter. You will obtain the main harvest from about two months after sowing. Site the containers on a well-lit windowsill to take advantage of all the available light during short winter days.