Onions and Leeks – Home Garden

Growing Onions and Leeks in the Home Garden
by Orin Martin

taken from the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems newsletter

Over time the genus Allium, which includes onions, leeks, and garlic, has been variously listed under the Liliaceae and the Amaryllidaceae families. Both families have been comprised of a wide spectrum of distantly related heterogenous plants.

In 1985 botanists Rolf Dahlgren, H.T. Clifford, and Peter Yeo published The Families of Monocotyledons. Their startling new view of the monocots created 40 new families! While this arrangement may be consistent with DNA sequencing, it wreaks taxonomic havoc for entry-level botanists and gardeners. Nonetheless, genus Allium is now placed in its own family, Alliaceae (technically, bulbous plants with basal leaves, flowers borne in a leafless umbel with subtending bracts and a superior ovary). The Alliums are a rarity, in that they are one of the few vegetables that are monocots.

There are approximately 400 species of wild onions, leeks, and their relatives found world-wide. The principal garden species are –

Allium cepa -bulbing onions

Allium cepa aggregatum -shallots, multiplier onions, potato onions

Allium cepa proliferum -topset onions, Egyptian onions, tree onions

Allium sativum sativum -softneck, artichoke garlic

Allium sativum ophioscorodon -stiffneck, ophio, topsetting garlic

Allium ampleloprasum (porrum) -leeks, elephant garlic

Allium fistulosum -bunching onions, scallions

Allium schoenoprasum -chives

Allium tuberosum -Chinese chives


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