What the Heck Is a Potato Onion?

Learn what it is, what it tastes like, and how to use it in your favorite recipes.

Learn what it is, what it tastes like, and how to use it in your favorite recipes.

Description: Belonging to the allium family (whose members include garlic, shallots, onions, leeks, and chives), the potato onion is a rare perennial vegetable. Potato onions have no relation to the potato. Rather, the name comes from the fact that potato onions are planted and grown like potatoes. Farmers keep the largest potatoes for eating and replant the smaller ones as “seed potatoes.” Potato onions typically grow as a cluster of 10 to 12 bulbs attached at the base (like a head of garlic with its fused cloves), and, just like potatoes, the larger bulbs are eaten and the smaller ones are replanted.

Flavor Profile: The flavor is smooth and weaker than onion, but with a hint of garlic.

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What’s in a Name? Due to their ability to self-propagate, potato onions are also called multiplier onions, pregnant onions, and mother onions.

Use: The large bulbs work in recipes that call for onions or shallots, and the smaller bulbs work as replacements for scallions or leeks.

Grow Your Own: Potato onions are usually first planted in spring and then harvested in fall. During that period, they multiply, on average, fivefold (remember, potato onions are raised from the bulb multiplying in itself). When they’re harvested in autumn, the best bulbs are saved for planting the following spring, and the rest are eaten. Bulbs should be planted shallowly, about one-half to two-thirds of the way into the ground (they grow mostly out of
the ground).

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