- Major entries:
- Allium ascalonicum Linn. Shallot.
- Allium canadense Linn. Tree Onion. Wild Garlic.
- Allium cepa Linn. Onion.
- Allium fistulosum Linn. Ciboul. Two-Bladed Onion. Welsh Onion.
- Allium porrum Linn. Leek.
- Allium sativum Linn. Clown's Treacle. Garlic.
- Allium schoenoprasum Linn. Chive. Cive.
- Allium scorodoprasum Linn. Rocambole. Sand Leek. Spanish Garlic.
Allium akaka Gmel. Liliaceae.
Persia. This plant appears in the bazar in Teheren as a vegetable under the name of wolag. It also grows in the Alps. The whole of the young plant is considered a delicacy and is used as an addition to rice in a pilau.
Allium ampeloprasum Linn. Great-Headed Garlic. Levant Garlic. Wild Leek.
Europe and the Orient. This is a hardy perennial, remarkable for the size of the bulbs. The leaves and stems somewhat resemble those of the leek. The peasants in certain parts of Southern Europe eat it raw and this is its only known use.
Allium angulosum Linn. Mouse Garlic.
Siberia. Called on the upper Yenisei mischei-tschesnok, mouse garlic, and from early times collected and salted for winter use.
Cultivated everywhere. The Askolonion krommoon of Theophrastus and the Cepa ascolonia of Pliny, are supposed to be our shallot but this identity can scarcely be claimed as assured. It is not established that the shallot occurs in a wild state, and De Candolle is inclined to believe it is a form of A. cepa, the onion. It is mentioned and figured in nearly all the early botanies, and many repeat the statement of Pliny that it came from Ascalon, a town in Syria, whence the name. Michaud, in his History of the Crusades, says that our gardens owe to the holy wars shallots, which take their name from Ascalon. Amatus Lusitanus, 1554, gives Spanish, Italian, French and German names, which go to show its early culture in these countries. In England, shallots are said to have been cultivated in 1633, but McIntosh says they were introduced in 1548; they do not seem to have been known to Gerarde in 1597. In 1633, Worlidge says "eschalots art now from France become an English condiment." Shallots are enumerated for American gardens in 1806. Vilmorin mentions one variety with seven sub-varieties.
The bulbs are compound, separating into what are called cloves, like those of garlic, and are of milder flavor than other cultivated alliums. They are used in cookery as a seasoner in stews and soups, as also in a raw state; the cloves, cut into small sections, form an ingredient in French salads and are also sprinkled over steaks and chops. They make an excellent pickle. In China, the shallot is grown but is not valued as highly as is A. uliginosum.
North America. There is some hesitation in referring the tree onion of the garden to this wild onion. Loudon refers to it as "the tree, or bulb-bearing, onion, syn. Egyptian onion, A. cepa, var. viviparium; the stem produces bulbs instead of flowers and when these bulbs are planted they produce underground onions of considerable size and, being much stronger flavored than those of any other variety, they go farther in cookery." Booth says, "the bulb-bearing tree onion was introduced into England from Canada in 1820 and is considered to be a vivaparous variety of the common onion, which it resembles in appearance. It differs in its flower-stems being surmounted by a cluster of small green bulbs instead of bearing flowers and seed." It is a peculiarity of A. canadense that it often bears a head of bulbs in the place of flowers; its flavor is very strong; it is found throughout northern United States and Canada. Mueller says its top bulbs are much sought for pickles of superior flavor. Brown says its roots are eaten by some Indians. In 1674, when Marquette and his party journeyed from Green Bay to the present site of Chicago, these onions formed almost the entire source of food. The lumbermen of Maine often used the plant in their broths for flavoring. On the East Branch of the Penobscot, these onions occur in abundance and are bulb-producing on their stalks. They grow in the clefts of ledges and even with the scant soil attain a foot in height. In the lack of definite information, it may be allowable to suggest that the tree onion may be a hybrid variety from this wild species, or possibly the wild species improved by cultivation. The name, Egyptian onion, is against this surmise, while, on the other hand, its apparent origination in Canada is in its favor, as is also the appearance of the growing plants.
Persia and Beluchistan. The onion has been known and cultivated as an article of food from the earliest period of history. Its native country is unknown. At the present time it is no longer found growing wild, but all authors ascribe to it an eastern origin. Perhaps it is indigenous from Palestine to India, whence it has extended to China, Cochin China, Japan, Europe, North and South Africa and America. It is mentioned in the Bible as one of the things for which the Israelites longed in the wilderness and complained about to Moses. Herodotus says, in his time there was an inscription on the Great Pyramid stating the sum expended for onions, radishes and garlic, which had been consumed by the laborers during the progress of its erection, as 1600 talents. A variety was cultivated, so excellent that it received worship as a divinity, to the great amusement of the Romans, if Juvenal is to be trusted. Onions were prohibited to the Egyptian priests, who abstained from most kinds of pulse, but they were not excluded from the altars of the gods. Wilkinson says paintings frequently show a priest holding them in his hand, or covering an altar with a bundle of their leaves and roots. They were introduced at private as well as public festivals and brought to table. The onions of Egypt were mild and of an excellent flavor and were eaten raw as well as cooked by persons of all classes.
Hippocrates says that onions were commonly eaten 430 B. C. Theophrastus, 322 B. C., names a number of varieties, the Sardian, Cnidian, Samothracian and Setanison, all named from the places where grown. Dioscorides, 60 A. D., speaks of the onion as long or round, yellow or white. Columella, 42 A. D., speaks of the Marsicam, which the country people call unionem, and this word seems to be the origin of our word, onion, the French ognon. Pliny, 79 A. D., devotes considerable space to cepa, and says the round onion is the best, and that red onions are more highly flavored than the white. Palladius, 210 A. D., gives minute directions for culture. Apicius, 230 A. D., gives a number of recipes for the use of the onion in cookery but its uses by this epicurean writer are rather as a seasoner than as an edible. In the thirteenth century, Albertus Magnus describes the onion but does not include it in his list of garden plants where he speaks of the leek and garlic, by which we would infer, what indeed seems to have been the case with the ancients, that it was in less esteem than these, now minor, vegetables. In the sixteenth century, Amatus Lusitanus says the onion is one of the commonest of vegetables and occurs in red and white varieties, and of various qualities, some sweet, others strong, and yet others intermediate in savor. In 1570, Matthiolus refers to varieties as large and small, long, round and flat, red, bluish, green and white. Laurembergius, 1632, says onions differ in form, some being round, others, oblong; in color, some white, others dark red; in size, some large, others small; in their origin, as German, Danish, Spanish. He says the Roman colonies during the time of Agrippa grew in the gardens of the monasteries a Russian sort which attained sometimes the weight of eight pounds. He calls the Spanish onion oblong, white and large, excelling all other sorts in sweetness and size and says it is grown in large abundance in Holland. At Rome, the sort which brings the highest price in the markets is the Caieta; at Amsterdam, the St. Omer.
There is a tradition in the East, as Glasspoole writes, that when Satan stepped out of the Garden of Eden after the fall of man, onions sprang up from the spot where he placed his right foot and garlic from that where his left foot touched.
Targioni-Tozzetti thinks the onion will probably prove identical with A. fistulosum Linn., a species having a rather extended range in the mountains of South Russia and whose southwestern limits are as yet unascertained.
The onion has been an inmate of British gardens, says McIntosh, as long as they deserve the appellation. Chaucer," about 1340, mentions them: "Wel loved he garleek, onyons and ek leekes."
Humboldt says that the primitive Americans were acquainted with the onion and that it was called in Mexican xonacatl. Cortez, in speaking of the edibles which they found on the march to Tenochtitlan, cites onions, leeks and garlic. De Candolle does not think that these names apply to the species cultivated in Europe. Sloane, in the seventeenth century, had seen the onion only in Jamaica in gardens. The word xonacatl is not in Hernandez, and Acosta says expressly that the onions and garlics of Peru came originally from Europe. It is probable that onions were among the garden herbs sown by Columbus at Isabela Island in 1494, although they are not specifically mentioned. Peter Martyr speaks of "onyons" in Mexico and this must refer to a period before 1526, the year of his death, seven years after the discovery of Mexico. It is possible that onions, first introduced by the Spaniards to the West Indies, had already found admittance to Mexico, a rapidity of adaptation scarcely impossible to that civilized Aztec race, yet apparently improbable at first thought.
Onions are mentioned by Wm. Wood, 1629-33, as cultivated in Massachusetts; in 1648, they were cultivated in Virginia; and were grown at Mobile, Ala., in 1775. In 1779, onions were among the Indian crops destroyed by Gen. Sullivan near Geneva, N. Y. In 1806, McMahon mentions six varieties in his list of American esculents. In 1828, the potato onion, A. cepa, var. aggregatum G. Don, is mentioned by Thorburn as a "vegetable of late introduction into our country." Burr describes fourteen varieties.
Vilmorin describes sixty varieties, and there are a number of varieties grown in France which are not noted by him. In form, these may be described as flat, flattened, disc-form, spherical, spherical-flattened, pear-shaped, long. This last form seems to attain an exaggerated length in Japan, where they often equal a foot in length. In 1886, Kizo Tamari, a Japanese commissioner to this country, says, "Our onions do not have large, globular bulbs. They are grown just like celery and have long, white, slender stalks." In addition to the forms mentioned above, are the top onion and the potato onion. The onion is described in many colors, such as white, dull white, silvery white, pearly white, yellowish-green, coppery-yellow, salmon-yellow, greenish-yellow, bright yellow, pale salmon, salmon-pink, coppery-pink, chamois, red, bright red, blood-red, dark red, purplish.
But few of our modem forms are noticed in the early botanies. The following synonymy includes all that are noted, but in establishing it, it must be noted that many of the figures upon which it is founded are quite distinct:
- I. Bulb flat at bottom, tapering towards stem.
- Cepa. Fuchsius, 430. 1542.
- Cepa rotunda. Bodaeus, 787. 1644.
- Caepe sive Cepa rubra el alba. Bauhin, J. 2: 549. 1651.
- Geant de Rocca. Vilm. 387. 1883.
- Mammoth Pompeii. American Seedsmen.
- Golden Queen. American Seedsmen.
- Paris Silverskin. American Seedsmen.
- Silver White Etna. American Seedsmen.
- The difference at first sight between the crude figure of Fuchsius and the modern varieties is great, but ordinary experience indicates that the changes are no greater than can be observed under selection.
- II. Bulb round at bottom, tapering towards stem.
- Zwiblen. Roeszl. 121. 1550.
- Cepa. Trag. 737. 1552.
- Caepa. Cam. Epit. 324. 1586.
- Blanc hatif de Valence. Vilm. 378. 1883.
- Neapolitan Marzajola. American Seedsmen.
- Round White Silverskin. American Seedsmen.
- White Portugal. American Seedsmen.
- III. Bulb roundish, flattened above and below.
- Cepa. Matth. 276, 1558; Pin. 215. 1561.
- Caepa capitata. Matth. 388. 1570.
- Cepe. Lob. Obs. 73. 1576; Icon. 1:150. 1591.
- Cepa rubra. Ger. 134. 1597.
- Cepa rotunda. Dod. 687. 1616.
- Rouge gros-plat d'ltalie. Vilm. 387. 1883.
- Bermuda. American Seedsmen.
- Large Flat Madeira. American Seedsmen.
- Wethersfield Large Red. American Seedsmen.
- IV. Bulb rounded below, flattened above.
- Cepa. Pictorius 82. 1581.
- Philadelphia Yellow Dutch, or Strasburg. American Seedsmen.
- V. Bulb spherical, or nearly so.
- Cepa. Trag. 737. 1552. Lauremb. 26. 1632,
- Cepe. Lob. Obs. 73. 1576; Icon. 1;150. 1591.
- Cepe alba. Ger. 134. 1597.
- Caepa capitata. Matth. 419. 1598.
- Juane de Danvers. Vilm. 380. 1883.
- Danvers. American Seedsmen.
- VI Bulb concave on the bottom.
- Cepa rotunda. Bodaeus 786. 1644.
- Extra Early Red. American Seedsmen.
- VII. Bulb oblong.
- Caepa. Cam. Epit. 324. 1586.
- Cepae Hispanica oblonga. Lob. Icon. 1:150. 1591.
- Cepa oblonga. Dod. 687. 1616; Bodaeus 787. 1644.
- Piriform. Vilm. 388. 1883.
- VIII. The top onion.
- In 1587, Dalechamp records with great surprise an onion plant which bore small bulbs in the place of seed.
Allium cernuum Roth. Wild Onion.
Western New York to Wisconsin and southward. This and A. canadense formed almost the entire source of food for Marquette and his party on their journey from Green Bay to the present site of Chicago in the fall of 1674.
Siberia, introduced into England in 1629. The Welsh onion acquired its name from the German walsch (foreign). It never forms a bulb like the common onion but has long, tapering roots and strong fibers. It is grown for its leaves which are used in salads. McIntosh says it has a small, flat, brownish-green bulb which ripens early and keeps well and is useful for pickling. It is very hardy and, as Targioni-Tozzetti thinks, is probably the parent species of the onion. It is mentioned by McMahon in 1806 as one of the American garden esculents; by Randolph in Virginia before 1818; and was cataloged for sale by Thorburn in 1828, as at the present time.
Allium neapolitanum Cyr. Daffodil Garlic.
Europe and the Orient. According to Heldreich, it yields roots which are edible.
Allium obliquum Linn.
Siberia. From early times the plant has been cultivated on the Tobol as a substitute for garlic.
Allium odorum Linn. Fragrant-Flowered Garlic.
Siberia. This onion is eaten as a vegetable in Japan.
Allium oleraceum Linn. Field Garlic.
Europe. The young leaves are used in Sweden to flavor stews and soups or fried with other herbs and are sometimes so employed in Britain but are inferior to those of the cultivated garlic.
Found growing wild in Algiers but the Bon Jardinier says it is a native of Switzerland. It has been cultivated from the earliest times. This vegetable was the prason of the ancient Greeks, the porrum of the Romans, who distinguished two kinds, the capitatum, or leek, and the sectile, or chives, although Columella, Pliny, and Palladius, indicate these as forms of the same plant brought about through difference of culture, the chive-like form being produced by thick planting. In Europe, the leek was generally known throughout the Middle Ages, and in the earlier botanies some of the figures of the leek represent the two kinds of planting alluded to by the Roman writers. In England, 1726, Townsend says that "leeks are mightily used in the kitchen for broths and sauces." The Israelites complained to Moses of the deprivation from the leeks of Egypt during their wanderings in the wilderness. Pliny states, that in his time the best leeks were brought from Egypt, and names Aricia in Italy as celebrated for them. Leeks were brought into great notice by the fondness for them of the Emperor Nero who used to eat them for several days in every month to clear his voice, which practice led the people to nickname him Porrophagus. The date of its introduction into England is given as 1562, but it certainly was cultivated there earlier, for it has been considered from time immemorial as the badge of Welshmen, who won a victory in the sixth century over the Saxons which they attributed to the leeks they wore by the order of St. David to distinguish them in the battle. It is referred to by Tusser and Gerarde as if in common use in their day.
The leek may vary considerably by culture and often attain a large size; one with the blanched portion a foot long and nine inches in circumference and the leaf fifteen inches in breadth and three feet in length has been recorded. Vilmorin described eight varieties in 1883 but some of these are scarcely distinct. In 1806, McMahon named three varieties among American garden esculents. Leeks are mentioned by Romans as growing at Mobile, Ala., in 1775 and as cultivated by the Choctaw Indians. The reference to leeks by Cortez is noticed under A. cepa, the onion. The lower, or blanched, portion is the part generally eaten, and this is used in soups or boiled and served as asparagus. Buist names six varieties. The blanched stems are much used in French cookery.
Allium reticulatum Fras.
North America. This is a wild onion whose root is eaten by the Indians.
Allium roseum Linn. Rosy-Flowered Garlic.
Mediterranean countries. According to Heldreich, this plant yields edible roots.
Allium rotundum Linn.
Europe and Asia Minor. The leaves are eaten by the Greeks of Crimea.
Allium rubellum Bieb.
Europe, Siberia and the Orient. The bulbs are eaten by the hill people of India and the leaves are dried and preserved as a condiment.
Europe. This plant, well known to the ancients, appears to be native to the plains of western Tartary and at a very early period was transported thence over the whole of Asia (excepting Japan), north Africa and Europe. It is believed to be the skorodon hemeron of Dioscorides and the allium of Pliny. It was ranked by the Egyptians among gods in taking an oath, according to Pliny. The want of garlics was lamented to Moses by the Israelites in the wilderness. Homer makes garlic a part of the entertainment which Nestor served to his guest, Machaon. The Romans are said to have disliked it on account of the strong scent but fed it to their laborers to strengthen them and to their soldiers to excite courage. It was in use in England prior to 1548 and both Turner and Tusser notice it. Garlic is said to have been introduced in China 140-86 B. C. and to be found noticed in various Chinese treatises of the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Loureiro found it under cultivation in Cochin China.
The first mention of garlic in America is by Peter Martyr, who states that Cortez fed on it in Mexico. In Peru, Acosta says "the Indians esteem garlike above all the roots of Europe." It was cultivated by the Choctaw Indians in gardens before 1775 and is mentioned among garden esculents by American writers on gardening in 1806 and since. The plant has the well-known alliaceous odor which is strongly penetrating, especially at midday. It is not as much used by northern people as by those of the south of Europe. In many parts of Europe, the peasantry eat their brown bread with slices of garlic which imparts a flavor agreeable to them. In seed catalogs, the sets are listed while seed is rarely offered. There are two varieties, the common and the pink.
North temperate zone. This perennial plant seems to be grown in but few American gardens, although McMahon, 1806, included it in his list of American esculents. Chive plants are included at present among the supplies offered in our best seed catalogs. In European gardens, they are cultivated for the leaves which are used in salads, soups and for flavoring. Chives are much used in Scotch families and are considered next to indispensable in omelettes and hence are much more used on the Continent of Europe, particularly in Catholic countries. In England, chives were described by Gerarde as "a pleasant Sawce and good Pot-herb;" by Worlidge in 1683; the chive was among seedsmen's supplies in 1726; and it is recorded as formerly in great request but now of little regard, by Bryant in 1783.
The only indication of variety is found in Noisette, who enumerates the civette, the cive d'Angleterre and the cive de Portugal but says these are the same, only modified by soil. The plant is an humble one and is propagated by the bulbs; for, although it produces flowers, these are invariably sterile according to Vilmorin.
Europe, Caucasus region and Syria. This species grows wild in the Grecian Islands and probably elsewhere in the Mediterranean regions. Loudon says it is a native of Denmark, formerly cultivated in England for the same purposes as garlic but now comparatively neglected. It is not of ancient culture as it cannot be recognized in the plants of the ancient Greek and Roman authors and finds no mention of garden cultivation by the early botanists. It is the Scorodoprasum of Clusius, 1601, and the Allii genus, ophioscorodon dictum quibusdam, of J. Bauhin, 1651, but there is no indication of culture in either case. Ray, 1688, does not refer to its cultivation in England. In 1726, however, Townsend says it is "mightly in request;" in 1783, Bryant classes it with edibles. In France it was grown by Quintyne, 1690. It is mentioned by Gerarde as a cultivated plant in 1596. Its bulbs are smaller than those of garlic, milder in taste and are produced at the points of the stem as well as at its base. Rocambole is mentioned among American garden esculents by McMahon, 1806, by Gardiner and Hepburn, 1818, and by Bridgeman, 1832.
Allium senescens Linn.
Europe and Siberia. This species is eaten as a vegetable in Japan.
Allium sphaerocephalum Linn. Round-Headed Garlic.
Europe and Siberia. From early times this species has been eaten by the people about Lake Baikal.
Allium stellatum Fras.
North America. "Bulb oblong-ovate and eatable."
Allium ursinum Linn. Bear's Garlic. Buckrams. Gipsy Onion. Hog's Garlic. Ramsons.
Europe and northern Asia. Gerarde, 1597, says the leaves were eaten in Holland. They were also valued formerly as a pot-herb in England, though very strong. The bulbs were also used boiled and in salads. In Kamchatka this plant is much prized. The Russians as well as the natives gather it for winter food.
Allium vineale Linn. Crow Garlic. Field Garlic. Stag's Garlic.
Europe and now naturalized in northern America near the coast. In England, the leaves are used as are those of garlic.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.