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Onions and garlic

Category: Food



Introduction and description

I have used some familiar names for the heading, but this section more correctly describes edible Alliums.

Alliums are informally referred to as the onion genus, the name Allium is the Latin word for garlic. The genus includes the following plants:

In some cases we have provided a separate section for the plant where an observation is very specific.  The link provides the detail for the entry.  But since all the plants in the family Allium share somewhat similar characteristics, any more general references and health information are provided here.

Both onions and garlic are the basis of most savoury stews and mixed vegetable sauces. Bolognese sauce is made from onions, for example, so this family of vegetables has played a pivotal role in cooking worldwide, as the various parts of the plants, either raw or cooked in many ways, produce a wonderful variety of flavors and textures. The genus contains hundreds of distinct species; and many have been harvested through human history.

And they have extensive healing capabilities.


giant onions are grown for fun and competition in the North of England
part of the allotments heritage of the UK

Allium is a genus of perennial bulbous plants that produce chemical compounds (mostly cysteine sulfoxide) that give them a characteristic onion or garlic taste and smell.

Their taste may be strong or weak, depending on the species and on ground sulphur (usually as sulfate) content.

In the rare occurrence of sulphur-free growth conditions, all Allium species will lack their usual pungency altogether.  But this is not at all what we want because sulphur is exceptionally important healthwise, so the stronger the better and the more sulphur the better.

The allium family have anti-oxidant and antiviral properties as well as extensive antibiotic capability.  They can also be very effective laxatives!  They can all help to reduce blood pressure.  They are chelators of metals in us and if the ground is polluted of the ground too [so care needs to be taken here].  They appear to have a very positive effect on the skin, creating that 'clear skin smile'.  They are, for example, a natural cure for pimples spots and also acne [depending on its cause].


Onions can be grown from seed, but need a long growing season.  In the North, they tend to be grown from little corms which can be bought from seed merchants.  The main disadvantage with buying corms is that the number of varieties is far less than the actual number of alliums, but I suspect this could change if more people became interested in 'growing their own'.

pretty, but inedible ........

All alliums prefer a well drained rich soil, the soil should never become water logged as the bulb will rot.  They do like water, however, and thrive on being watered in dry conditions.  If the soil becomes too dry for any length of time, they do what is called 'bolting' - meaning running to seed - and thereby you have lost a crop but gained next years seed!  They are actually quite decorative in their bolted state, so if you are growing any for seed, the flower garden is a good place.

Onions love manure, any animal's poo will do, but it needs to be well rotted.  My father also used to use soot [from the days when sweeps were common] and sprinkled this around the plants to keep away fungal diseases.  I assume ash might work as well, though he never tried this,  with the added advantage that ash from a bonfire or wood burning stove is mineral rich.

Specific guidelines for growing leeks and chives are given in the sections for these plants, although chives are extraordinarily forgiving and seem to grow anywhere, including pots.


Curries, stews, Italian food, sauces, baked and stuffed with peanut butter and rice, roasted as part of a mixed roasted vegetable dish in olive oil and sprinked with balsamic vinegar and a little honey plus toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese..............

How it works

see the observations from Pubmed for the healing properties.


leeks are alliums too and the same competitive spirit creates giant leeks too



Easily grown






References and further reading

Koch HP, Lawson LD, eds. Garlic: The Science and Therapeutic Application of Allium sativum L. and Related Species.2nd ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1996

Related observations