Oldtime Heirloom HEAL - HALE - HILL ONION

ALTERNATING MULTIPLIER ONION


Alternates yearly producing clove clusters and solitary bulbs. Normally planted in October the same as garlic. Harvest late July after tops fall and start to turn brown.

How to Grow Alternating Multiplier

Planting

1. Plant a clove, you get a solitary bulb.
2. Plant a solitary bulb, you get a cluster of 3-9 cloves.

Be sure to re-plant some of both each year. Grandfather used to say: "Dont eat all the big ones!" By re-planting most of the cloves and about half the solitary bulbs, you can about double your stock each year.

Plant the same as garlic -- late Autumn. Or can be planted in Spring as soon as the ground thaws. Cover 2 inches soil. Step on the planting to ensure good contact of soil around the bulb/clove. Autumn, cover bed with 1-2 inches of leaves. Then cover with chicken wire or netting to hold the leaves in place and to prevent animals' digging.

Depth of soil minimum 10 inches. Good compost grows bigger onions. Fish and sawdust compost works for me. I am leery of too much manure which might contain unwanted organisms.

Onions will survive a dry spell, but they will be small and develop less outer skin protection. So they may need water in May and June.

Harvest

Dig up the onions after tops fall over & start turning brown (about July 15-21). Let the onions lay on top of the ground for one sunny day = 24 hours. Handle gently to avoid bruising.

Harvest promptly for 2 reasons: The brown tops will dry up and blow away sooner than you think -- then you can't find the onions. Second, left underground the onion will soon start to soften and go into a new growth cycle.

Storage

Store in open trays, in a cool/shady dry (Dry=out of the rain, but normal humidity ups and downs are okay) location. Do not pile them (avoid bruising).

Winter: Can be stored in unheated garage or shed. A special feature of these onions: they can withstand freezing and still be good after. This made them very useful for primitive farmers; my father kept them in the hay loft of the barn. Do not touch them when frozen. I don't know what the lower limit is for how cold they can survive.

Eating

Medium sweetness and heat. Raw is recommended. Traditionally used in cooking as well.

Healing

Touch the onions and breathe on them before planting. Walk among the growing onions with bare feet (ref. Anastasia Ringing Cedars). Or just talk to them. When you peel the onion before eating, thank it for growing, ask it to heal you, and promise to plant more of them.

Onions in general are antiseptic, may thin the blood, good for liver, head, etc. Were frequently used in poultices. European herbalists prescribed them in footbaths to cause sweating.

Onion characteristic has layers forming an integral whole. A human also has outer layers surrounding a center. Genetically, these onions come from ancient times when magic, or divine presence in nature, was the norm.

History of my onions

My Stock from my great-grandparents (1900--), Appalachian foothills, Kentucky. My father Bunt Murray continued growing them after the post-WWII surge of industrialization, when most gardeners stopped growing onions or started buying the commercially available sets.

My mother sent me 150 in 2007 which I planted at Renfrew and then Ottawa, Ontario. By 2016 expanded crop to 1,500 while giving some away each year. April 2017 I gave away most of my stock to about 10 gardeners.

About the Name: Heal, Hill...

My parents called them hill onions. I could be wrong but my theory is that the hillbilly dialect of the English language mangled the name. Because there is no apparent reason for "hill," while they do have healing effects and onions were often used as a folk remedy. The word Hal, with two dots over the a, is old English for "hale" that could be the original folk name. Hill, heal, hale, heel; can all sound the same in the spoken dialect: .

Such words were not written anywhere, but passed verbally through generations. For example "tobacco" is called "backer." "Ginseng" is called "sang," tomato = "mater,"

Other Varieties

A Wikipedia article described a type of multiplier onion; bulbs divide consistently (not alternating). This article suggested they may have originated in Bavaria.

Wikipedia has articles on "potato onion" and "walking" onion (tree onion).

I contacted a gentleman in Ottawa area who has a different type of multiplier onion consisting only of clove-clusters; i.e., the habit of garlic.

A person in Kinburn said she has several varieties of multiplier onions.

written by Carlos Murray April 2017 at Ottawa, Canada

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