Sometimes, you just want an alternative to the onion. It could be for health reasons, it could be for culinary diversity, or it might be because you’re tired of growing the same basic onions and want something different in the garden.
Whatever your reasons, there are a lot of options.
Onions are part of the Allium family of vegetables, which also includes garlic, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots. In a nutritional sense, all of these Allium plants have the same basic benefits. Onions have been medically proven to have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce many cardiovascular problems. Onion’s cousin, garlic, has the same properties. Most of this is believed to be due to the high sulfur content that onions possess, which is a trait shared by all in the Allium family.
In the culinary sense, for cooking, leeks are the closest in taste for those looking for an alternative to grow in their garden.
If you don’t wish to use onions in cooking is because they cause gas (flatulence), then a good alternative is fresh chopped celery, thyme, cumin, or fennel seed. They do not have the same spice as onion, but also do not react with bacteria in the gut the way that onion does, and so don’t produce gas like onions can.
Other gardener’s options for alternatives to onions include potato onions, walking (Egyptian) onions, and shallot. Here’s more information on onion alternatives, so you can decide which to try:
Green Onions (also called Bunching Onions or Scallions) are easy to grow and very cold tolerant. They are hardy down to Zone 4. Their main negative is overheating if they get too much sun during the hot summer.
Egyptian Onions (also called Walking Onions) are a perennials that are hardy to Zone 5. The “Catawissa” strain is most common in America. Most varieties are fairly winter hardy and can overwinter in the ground.
Leeks are very common and a popular substitute for onions in recipes. They are fast-growing and come in a large number of varieties with some cold-hardy options as well. They are used similarly to a green onion.
Potato Onions (Nest, Hill, Pregnant, etc.) are a cold-hardy, storage onion often planted in the fall. They include a popular yellow-skinned variety that replaces sweet onions almost exactly. Cold and freeze tolerant.
Shallots are another very popular onion replacement grown in today’s gardens. They are very tasty and available in a number of varieties for most American climates. Regional varieties are not uncommon. Propagate shallots by dividing the bulb since they rarely seed.
Want to learn more about onion alternatives?
Check out these helpful websites:
University of Minnesota – Leeks
Clemson University – Onion, Leek, Shallot and Garlic