Friday, July 20, 2012


Apologies of the routine kind for blog neglect; my sister came to visit and the weather got a bit better, so one way and another I've been otherwise occupied somewhat.  I'll try to use up the backlog of intended blog matter (sound a bit bodily and unpleasant, that), and to get round some of yours again. 

First off, alliums. Back in the heady, onion-planting days of spring, when we believed there might one day be a summer in this part of the northern hemisphere, I split a bag of Roscoff pink onion sets with Plutarch.  The Roscoff pink onion is a vegetable dear to both of our hearts and palates (if you can be doing with reading this post from five years ago you may deduce one reason for this, as well as observing what a loquacious blogger I used to be...), but until lately it has been difficult to procure the sets to grow one's own, since they are appellation d'origine contrôlée.  Even these were not permitted to be sold as Roscoff onions, but only Roscoff-type, but for the first time were being offered for sale in the Jacques Briant catalogue

Plutarch has been conscientiously giving news of his onions' progress, which has been a little disappointing I gather owing to the dismal weather we've all been having (not that I'm complaining when I see how some people have had it).  I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago now, and in the spirit of competitive old codgers at country produce shows, I think I can probably gloat that mine are bigger than his.  This is in absolutely no wise down to any superior gardening skills on my part; from everything I gather Plutarch's veg patch is Hyperion to a satyr compared to mine, but simply down to the fact that even in a rubbish summer, Brittany is still that bit warmer than Kent. And perhaps the little pinkies are just a bit happier at being that much closer to their origine contrôlée, who knows? 

These are they, after a shower of rain, who'd have thought it, in their raised bed (which is somewhat weedy), with some chives in the background.  The bulbs themselves are a bit bigger still now, but the tops are getting scruffy and flopping about even more untidily now.

I like it when they do that braiding thing.  

And a lot more gratuitously arty shots of raindrops on onion tops.

The other members of the onion family I wanted to show you were the tree onions, which I've learned are even more picturesquely called Egyptian walking onions, because, in effect, they walk around the garden, springing sets from flowers again and again, then drooping and dropping a step and then another step away.  They go on forever like this, it seems.  Vegetative life is very strange, and very largely knows no death.


That's it for onions for now, more stuff from the garden to come, I dare say.


Anonymous said...

Lovely, both the post and the pictures. I have one allium clump in my flowerbeds out front, and each year it gets more lush, with those purple spiky flowers. It smells oniony, which is interesting in a flowerbed.

This line: "Vegetative life is very strange, and very largely knows no death." So wonderful.

- alison

Setu said...

I can perceive onion smell -nice for me- just by watching your pictures.
But HOW dare you say we have a rubbish summer ;-) Look,"Fanch ar Glao" ("Rainy François" as he is dubbed in Breton, aka President Hollande) didn't bring rain to Brest during his visit last Saturday... Yes, I know, it rained on Sunday... Anyway, I'll use an Arabic "onionish" saying: "Lioum bsel, ghadwa âasel" i.e. "Today onion, tomorrow honey", things will improve!

christopher said...

It is difficult for me too these days to muster the capacity to comment. I can't even muster the desire to comment much of the time. Or read for that matter. I notice even further that most of my friends are no longer so active. Some of my favorites are rarely present any more. There seems to be a cycle and a birth and death to blogging. It is obvious that the blog world is as active as ever in general but in particular, if I were not on a couple prompt sites there would be very little activity.

In just a couple months my peak traffic has dropped over 3000 hits a month and my comments to almost nothing. I know if I was a more active participant then I would get more reciprocal traffic. That is not enough to motivate me. *Sigh*

Nimble said...

Very cheery, your onion plot looks like it will supply the kitchen well for a while. My oldest daughter has always liked raw (!) onions. Sometimes I call her Cebollita.

Isabelle said...

Love the walking onions - triffids?

christopher said...

Oh man! I haven't thought of triffids for years! LOL

Rouchswalwe said...

That first close-up made my eyes widen, sweet Lucy! The colours. Wow! The braiding thing is nifty too, I agree. The whole not-knowing-death thing intrigues. Good earth, sunshine, clean water ... could these be the servants of immortality?

Plutarch said...

They look considerably stronger, Lucy, but then they are playing at home. For the most part the bulbs are swelling nicely but the leaves are toppling over in the weather.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Great photos, wish my onions were that healthy when I grow them!

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Alison - plants, many of which can propagate themselves vegetatively as well as sexually, just extending parts of themselves which live anew, genetically identical to the parent plant, seem less about the individual than animals, certainly less than people. Trees are more defined selves, with lives which begin and end, and people mourn the death of them, but even they often extend themselves by root suckers. We have one or two ornamental alliums too, which I think are very elegant plants.

Setu - is there any language in which you are not wittily conversant?:~) In fact on the Saturday you mention, my sister and I paid a visit to the Château de la Hunaudaye, and it was delightful weather, though cool; it was wonderful to enjoy the sun and th breeze up there on the battlements, and since then I've not had any complaints about the weather really! I prefer cool summers anyway, and from the point of view of our garden, which tends to be rather high and dry, the rain hasn't been bad at all. We've had a dearth of sunlight really though.

I bought a couple of mediaeval cookbooks at the château, where onions and honey might well combine in some of the recipes...

Christopher - we'll talk some more on this, if I get round to commenting more myself! I know you're around, no need to beat yourself up. :~)

Nimble - your daughter has sophisticated tastes! Pink Roscoffs are very good raw, sweet and mild. I like raw onion too in moderation but it tends to make me thirsty. This is probably only two or three nets' worth from the market or supermarket, but it's been fun growing, and sharing, them. They are quite expensive to buy and not always available either. Plutarch used to be able to buy them in his local supermarket in England but hasn't been able to lately.

Isabelle (and Christopher) - they're very slow moving triffids, you could run away easily...

R - They're pretty onions, it's true. Not knowing death - see my reply to Alison. But perhaps even without vegetative means of extending ourselves ad infinitum, there's a lesson to be learned from them: that perhaps we set too much store by our importance as individuals, the boundaries between our lives and others'; our discrete selves may die, life, awareness, consciousness, that which says 'I am' or indeed 'we are', goes on... or something like that!

Plutarch - glad yours are coming on. It occurred to me that there's nothing to give scale in these pictures, so there's no way of knowing if mine are bigger than yours anyway! I tried to measure the diameter of the largest of them roughly using a kitchen knife when I was down there yesterday (I didn't have a ruler to hand much less a pair of callipers!), and reckoned it to be a bit over 8 cm. Being designed for Brittany they shouldn't mind the wet too much, though I think they were descended from Spanish strains. I really must visit the Roscoff onion museum one day to learn more...

Cosmo - they do seem to quite like the wet weather. Other years our onion crops have been much more meagre and rusty. We no longer bother trying to grow tomatoes, it's just too damp here.