If I had to rave about a vegetable that is an overachiever in my vegie patch, yet is broadly under recognised on the whole, it would be spring onions. These are one of the crops I try to plant more of every month to keep up a constant supply and I simply bung them in wherever I have space. Depending on which state you grew up in, you may also know them as shallots or even bunching onions, but to me spring onions are the slender stemmed onions which have a slightly swollen base. The most commonly grown varieties have a white base with rich green leaves, however I also try to grow any of the red varieties with a crimson red base. They can be harvested in 8-12 weeks from planting and the whole part from the white base to the end of the foliage can be used in salads, stir fries, or as an onion substitute in cooking. Even the flowers can be chopped up and used. While they can be sown from seed, I tend to buy punnets which have many tiny seedlings per cell and then I separate them and space them about 3-5cm apart in rows.
The thing I love about them is that they can be harvested when slender like those you would buy commercially, but if you let them get too big, they are still fine to eat. Actually, I tend to harvest them when they are at least 1cm across and I have still used them when they are double that. With a tribe like mine to cook for, I need decent quantities of whatever I harvest, so the larger they are, the more there is to eat and the less work it is to chop them up.
Sometimes I have to harvest a patch that had got neglected while I was busy travelling. Or if I am desperate for room in that vegie bed, I decide to pull them all out at once. It’s a bit of work to strip off the outer layer and that’s where my outdoor sink by the kitchen door is perfect. If you grow the red stemmed spring onions, as they get bigger, the base of the onion swells and starts to develop a bulb like a normal onion, so again it doesn’t matter what stage you harvest them at. If you do end up with a glut like this, I clean them up, fry them up and then freeze them in recipe size portions to make it quicker when I am making a curry, stew or any other dish that requires cooked onion.
Leeks are pretty similar too and while some people think of them as a cool climate crop, I grow them all year round. Nothing beats the flavour and creamy texture of them in cooking however they are a longer term vegie and can take up to 8-10 months to be fully mature, even though they can be harvested and enjoyed at any size.