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Know Your Onions!

This may be the first year you’ve grown onions so there may be a few unexpected occurrences happening amongst the alliums on your plot or in your garden right now.

One such oddity will be your onions producing a rather large stalk with a beautiful, perfectly spherical flowerhead seemingly balancing on the top.

But why does this happen? Is it a good or bad thing? What should you do?

Well, when your onions (or any plant for that matter) is subjected to extreme weather conditions, be that too cold or too hot they have a tendency to panic. Your plants’ natural instinct is to think their time is up and it’s time to flower and set seed so it can produce plants for the following year.

Whilst this is an extremely clever thing for your plants to do, it’s actually not great from an edible point of view.

But why?

Well, when your onions set seed or flower in this way it means your plants are now using all their energy producing this rather large stalk and flower rather than using it to make that delicious bulb swell. Essentially, your onion bulbs will stop growing even if they are on the small-side!

Another reason this isn’t great for your crops is because when an edible plant bolts in this way it can give your produce a slightly bitter taste.

And if you still aren’t convinced, another reason to add to the list is that onions which have flowered won’t store as long. So, be sure to eat your flowering onions first.

However, there are a few fabulous reasons why seeing some of your plants bolting and producing these superb flowers…

Firstly, the flowers are incredible, a real sight for sore eyes!

And we aren’t the only admirers of these flowers because as with all alliums, your onion flowers are a magnet for pollinators who can’t resist stopping by for a visit.

Once you (and the pollinators) have enjoyed those flowers, your plants will produce a seemingly endless supply of tiny seeds you can collect and sow the following year.

Also, those long flower stalks needn’t got to waste because they’re edible too. Use the stalks as you would do chives and the flowers, with their mild oniony flavour, are a beautiful addition to summer salads.

To try and prevent your onions from flowering some gardeners swear by growing them from seed (as apposed to growing them from onion sets). Also, although it can be a tall order during the summer months, ensure your plants are as happy as possible by keeping them well watered.

This is why you might see your onions behaving in a slightly odd way this year, you know all the pros and all the cons, so now it’s over you to you decide and I‘ll ask that question again; is it a good or bad thing?

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