A surprising winner in my cold climate garden, this perennial onion is grown by most as an annual and known by more names than any other onion. It is, of course, instantly recognised by all. We are just confused by its correct name.
The Welsh onion is not a shallot or a young “spring” onion, it is it’s own unique variety with distinct flowers and growth habit.
Easily grown by planting some bought ends that normally get thrown away, it will quickly grow. Then, to harvest, just cut off 1 cm above ground level and it will grow back again. Over time the welsh onion will get thicker and can be used like a leek. If the climate gets below 13 degrees in winter it will flower. And it’s the flowers I love most. These oniony, crunchy morsels popping with goodness are a tasty addition to scrambled egg, salads and can be substituted in any recipes that call for the leaves.
Allium Fistulosum originated in North West China over 2000 years ago and has been a firm favourite there and in Japan ever since. It is particularly good for overwintering in cold climates, but can be grown even in tropical locations.
Apart from being tasty, Allium Fistulosum is handy in the garden, attracting bees and has a beneficial effect when planted with tomatoes, potatoes, brassicas, and carrots. The plants are said to reduce or prevent termite infestation in gardens. Diluted pressed juice is sprayed on plants to deter aphids in China.
It’s also good for your health. The therapeutic qualities attributed to Allium fistulosum are many, especially in Chinese medicine. It is used to improve the functioning of internal organs and the metabolism, for the prevention of cardiovascular disorders, and to prolong life. It is further reported to improve eyesight, and to enhance recovery from common colds, headaches, wounds and festering sores.
Tests showed that welsh onion extracts can modulate vascular tone in the thoracic aortae of rats. This supports the use in traditional medicine to prevent cardiovascular disorders. It’s main flavonoid is kaempferol, a strong antioxidant that helps to prevent oxidative damage in our cells, lipids and DNA. Kaempferol seems to prevent arteriosclerosis by inhibiting the oxidation of low density lipoprotein and the formation of platelets in the blood. Studies have also confirmed that kaempferol inhibits the formation of cancer cells. Antifungal constituents have been isolated from the seeds.
“Some epidemiological studies have found a positive association between the consumption of foods containing kaempferol and a reduced risk of developing several disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Numerous preclinical studies have shown that kaempferol and some glycosides of kaempferol have a wide range of pharmacological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, anti-osteoporotic, estrogenic/antiestrogenic, anxiolytic, analgesic and antiallergic activities. ”
The estrogenic effect is most probably responsible for the findings that kaempferol protects against loss of bone density that plagues many elderly.
I’m yet to grow these in Sydney, but up in the mountains were it is often below 13 degrees I get loads of flowers and in the hollow of mature leaves lives a lovely gel which I add to face masks or use like an anti ageing serum.