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How-to: grow your own green onions

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In the past year or so, indoor herb gardens have taken off as both a decorative trend and a convenient means of supplying your kitchen with theoretically infinite, delicious herbs. While basil, thyme, and parsley plants dominate interior decoration Instagram, these plants can actually be quite difficult to grow. Most herbs require at least six hours of light per day which, in Alberta, can only be found with a south-facing window and no obstructions, and even then, might be hard to get during the darker months. If they don’t get that light, the plants’ growth will be stunted, and the edible product will end up bitter and bland.

Green onions, on the other hand, are easy to start, way less fussy about their environment, and have an extremely fast growth cycle so you’ll always have them on hand. (Before you say it: yes, green onions are not botanically an herb. Culinarily, however, they are). With a bit of care and a couple of steps, you can have your own self-replicating green onions in a couple weeks.

  1. Buy some green onions. Green onions don’t grow on trees. To get what you need to start, you’ll have to head down to the grocery store to get some fully grown ones. Use them as you normally would, but save 1.5 – 2 inches of the white ends with the little roots — enough so that there is still a bit of green showing.
  2. Sprout them. Place the cuttings into a slender, transparent container, like a glass, so they can stand vertically, with the roots at the bottom. Fill the container with room tempera ture water until the onions are half submerged, and place in your sunniest window. After about a week, the roots will begin to elongate and new, light green growth will sprout out of the top.
  3. Plant them. If you want to be ideal about it, green onions like soil that has high drainage and with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. However, they will grow in just about anything. Plant the newly sprouted cuttings in whatever plant pot you would like, about an inch deep in the soil.
  4. Watch them grow. Your green onions will like a little bit of direct sunlight, but they’ll still be fine without it. Just put the pot in a window, and they will grow — just a bit slower if the window doesn’t get sun. For water, when the top of the soil is dry to the touch, give them enough so that a bit drips out of the bottom of the pot. After just one to two weeks, the onions will have fully regrown their stalks.
  5. Harvest them. The best indicator of a green onion’s matu rity is its colour. The stalks will be dark green when they are fully grown, and six to eight inches tall. When they reach this point, cut them with a sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears. You’ll be able to see a line where the new growth emerged after you cut them for the first time — try to cut close to that line. As soon as a day after you cut them, you’ll notice new baby green onions sprouting out the top once again. In perfect conditions, the onions will regrow indefinitely, but you should expect to get four harvests before you have to sprout and plant new ones.

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