Multipliers – A Special Kind of Onion

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I shared a post about onions, in particular, cebollines, a generic name in Spanish that may refer to onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum), garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), and also some types of green onions, such as very young bulb onions (Allium cepa) with their stems, or true scallions (Allium fistulosum).  There is another type of green onion, though, which is so important on the Mexican grill, that has its own name: cebollitas de cambray; they are a staple at Mexican BBQ parties (parrilladas) and taco restaurants (taquerías), grilled and slightly charred.

These onions are known as “knob onions” at some specialty produce markets, or by gardeners, as multiplier onions (Allium cepa, var. aggregatum), which is the same botanical group as shallots.  Multipliers are similar to shallots in terms of bulb size at maturity, about one inch (2.54 cm) across, and their growing habit, in which a plant is formed by a cluster of several stems that developed from a single set.  As of flavour, though, multipliers are just like a miniature version of the classic white onion, with a clear and very fresh taste.  In the photo below, a comparison between a scallion (top, no bulb) and a multiplier “knob” onion (bottom, bulging white bulb):

009 scallion and knob onion

Last year, I decided to try growing multiplier onions in my backyard.  In the spring, I bought a batch of sets (similar to the ones shown pictured at the top of the post) and planted them in rich soil; they took well, but being the impatient gardener that I am, mostly harvested them still immature, when they were just slightly forming a white bulb:

008 multipliers from last year 20200503
Young multiplier onions (2019)

This year, also impatiently, I ordered another batch, and shortly after that, realized that a few forgotten bulbs from last year had come back in my garden:

006 multipliers from last year 20200503
Multiplier onions amongst strawberry plants (May 2020)

In the photo, below, a close-up, showing that a single bulb had “multiplied” into a cluster of several stems:

007 multipliers from last year 20200503

Instead of fumbling with trying to cancel the order (considering that seed companies are extremely busy, due to the pandemic), I decided to just start an additional crop.  I received my new order last week:

001 multiplier Onions

Inside, wrapped in craft paper, there was a mesh bag (photo below, left), which contained a dozen onion sets (at the top of this post, and photo below, right):

I planted the new sets in one of the beds with multiplier onions from last year, to compare their growth side by side, as long as they were there.  About a week later, they were already sprouting (the plant in the middle is from last year):

005 multiplier onions 20200519

I will try to contain “the harvesting blues”, and wait until both crops form bulbs (maybe impatiently, but I will).  I am sure they will be oh, so nice! grilled and slightly charred, the Mexican way.

Incidentally, I am also growing true scallions; maybe then I will not feel the urge to  harvest my multiplier onions prematurely, hehe.  I usually start sprouting seed in boxes, indoors, and continue with more batches every three weeks:

101 scallions 20200520

The little seedlings are transplanted to a garden bed once hard frosts are over; it is amazing how they already look like a scallion, but in a miniature size, about two inches in length:

102 scallions 20200503
True scallion seedlings (May 3, 2020)

Then, they just need consistent watering and sun:

103 scallions 20200519
True scallions, growing (May 19, 2020)

It is great to have scallions in the garden, since some recipes call for one or two, and it is very convenient to just go to the backyard, and grab what is needed.  I should be able to harvest some in about one more month.

I am linking to Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge for May 21, 2020.

21 thoughts on “Multipliers – A Special Kind of Onion

  1. Looks like you’ll be set for great pico de gallo! I had a similar experience with onion sets a couple years back. I’d forgotten a couple of onions over winter snd they were happily sprouting! I didn’t need new onion sets because they had spread out nicely. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband just planted some green onions along with our regular vegetable garden. We’ll see what happens. The seeds were two years old. Not sure it’ll work, but worth a try.


  3. What a great post about onions Irene. Somehow you have linked this post to the Ragtag Daily Post: The Blues and not to Cee’s blog. I was all set for an unhappy ending to the seed purchase giving you the blues. I hope you will be able to resist picking this time so you will have the onions and not have to buy more seeds.


    1. Haha, I did link to the Ragtag Daily Post because I mentioned trying not to get “the harvest blues” from resisting the urge to get the onions too soon. Thank you for the prompt!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always have scallions set in the fall so they come up early in spring. Always my first crop. We’ve been eating them for weeks. I put some seeds in the garden, but it does work better to grow them in a pot or barrel first then move them.


    1. I think that’s the principle of the multipliers, to eat some as scallions early in the season, then eat mature ones and leave/save some for next year’s crop. I just have to be patient now … hehe

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s