Experimental Homestead

Some I’itoi Onion Bulbs Available for Subscribers



I’itoi (pronounced E-E-toy) are small and prolific multiplying onions.  The story goes that they were acquired from the O’odham people in what is now Arizona and N. Mexico.  They produce a very small Shallot like bulb that can be peeled and eaten, or they can be used as greens or pulled off during the growing season for “scallions”.   They are very rare at this point and were put on the Slow Food movements Ark of Taste a list of endangered food varieties.  I tossed a bag of old dried up ones that I thought were probably dead out in the rain a month ago, and a lot of them sprouted, so I thought I’d pass on what is left to readers of this blog rather than tossing them in the compost.  These are the ones that were too shrunken to sell, though perfectly viable, and now they are just barely hanging on for dear life.  They have a small core of viable bulb left and I think that if they are potted up soon most will still grow out.  You really only need one as they are very good multipliers.  I made up small packets of about 8 bulbs and tossed in a small sample seed pocket/packet of bulgarian giant leek seeds in each.  There are about a dozen packets ready to ship, first come first serve if you pay shipping, which just $1.50 should cover.  You can paypal that to me after contacting me through the contact link on this website.  This is offered for people who are subscribed to my blog.

I'itoi peeled and whole

I don’t know much about cold hardiness of I’itoi.  They certainly do fine with light freezes, but growing them outside in really cold climates is going to be a bit of an experiment.  I’d appreciate any reports back on how they do.  These bulbs are barely hanging in there, but they are tough little guys and still have a living core waiting to find some soil and water.  Plant them immediately.  In warm climates, plant in the ground now.  In cold climates, I’d start them in a pot indoors and then plant out when warm weather arrives.  They reproduce like crazy and even if only one survives, you’ll have plenty to share, replant and eat soon enough.  I started with just a few and have sold and given away many hundreds of bulbs.

This is one cluster of I'itoi grown in about 3 or 4 months. They are very prolific.

This is one cluster of I’itoi grown in about 3 or 4 months. They are very prolific.

If left in the ground, they’ll form a dense cluster that can contain hundreds of small bulbs.  If replanted singly and well tended, they will form much larger bulbs than if left alone, but again they are still quite small.

Peeled I'itois. Good if you have the patience.

First come first serve.  Contact me through the contact link on this page.  Again, this is for people who are subscribed to my blog and they’ll probably go fast, so don’t contact me next week or next month or next year.  I’ll probably have them on ebay again this summer and I would think that they will be more widely available from seed suppliers soon.

If you have the patience, peeled I'itoi onions are nice for dishes where they are left whole, such as Risotto or in stuffing. These are frying in chicken fat.

If you have the patience, peeled I’itoi onions are nice for dishes in which they are left whole, such as Risotto or in stuffing. These are frying in yummy yellow chicken fat from one of my chickens.

A google search will turn up a little info on I’itoi onions, but there is only so much out there.  This link is a good page to check out for more info.

And This video

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 9 Comments

Onion Braids: functional, symbolic, marketing ploy.

onion braid headers



I often braid my onions, but my braids aren’t all neat and pretty-like.  Stylish onion and garlic braids are nice, but I don’t have the time, energy and patience to sit around making something that I produce essentially for functional reasons look like I bought it at a country chic boutique.  Last year though, we braided onions for the market.  I spent a lot of time trimming the bulbs and making them look presentable, then dipping the dried leaves in water to re-soften so tonia could braid them neatly.  We added dried lavender and stuff to spiff them up a bit.  they turned out pretty nice and It was kind of fun, but it was also time consuming.  A major motivator was that it allowed us to sell our onions for a lot more.  If you really added up our time though, it was more like having another mediocre paying job to our lives, which is actually okay, but not high incentive.  I liked our onions braids, but something never quite sat right about the whole thing.  I think in a way we were diminishing the value of the food we grew by making it into something that may be viewed as art first and food second.  Also, I couldn’t help thinking that we could have spent that time growing more food or making something more lasting.

Onion braid for market

Pretty?  Pretty expensive!  (photo by tonia chi)

Continue reading

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff | , , , | 12 Comments

The Historic Potato Onion: A compilation of early references



I compiled a bunch of references while researching Potato Onions which are posted below.  It is also available as a The Historic Potato Onion- A compilation of early references, which also has links.  First though, I have some notes on my impressions and observations on reading through these references.  Note that there are many different planting dates and methods of cultivation.  That is to be expected, I suppose, given the widely varying geographies that the authors are referring to.  See also my previous detailed blog post on Potato Onions,  for more details about the onions and their culture, which is probably a better place to start your Potato Onion adventure if you are new to them.

Apparently planting smaller Onions makes fewer, but larger Onions than if larger Onions are planted.  I believe what is usually being referred to here is as follows.   The Potato Onion has a number of “eyes” growing inside of each Onion.  I believe each of these “eyes” probably forms a new  bulb each of which also has more “eyes”.  The larger Onions have more eyes and therefore produce more bulbs when planted although of smaller size due to competition within the plant itself.  The smaller Onions having fewer eyes produce fewer Onions but larger ones due to decreased competition for soil resources.  There are also however references which say that one small Onion will grow into just one large Onion.  I don’t think I have ever seen this happen with the yellow potato Onion variety that I have, so I suspect that it is either incorrect or that there is a variety which does behave this way.  It is also possible that I just have not planted small enough sets to observe the one-small-into-one-large phenomenon or, further, that I have observed it and simply forgot.  I will be observing the results of growing different sizes of bulbs more closely this year.  The idea, as some authors mention, is to grow the right proportion of large and small bulbs to assure larger ones for eating while yet retaining enough small bulbs for good seed.  Potato Onions often have internal division where the walls of skin between the “cloves” or main “eyes” have dried off.  Some mention is made of dividing them along these lines for planting.  I have done so, but not in a very observant manner. Continue reading

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 5 Comments