These are cipollini that I grew last summer, in a window box, because my potager had not yet been started, but I’d already given possession of the Cook’s garden at the herb farm to its new owners. I fell in love with these heirloom, small, flat, very sweet onions in Italy. We had them there as an appetizer, marinated in balsamic vinegar. As soon as we returned home, I planted a white variety from Seeds of Italy. You can read more about cipollini, and making marinated cipollini on my website (www.caroleesherbfarm.com) by clicking on the November 2015 E-Newsletter. We’ve grilled them (parboil for 5 minutes first) and because of the high sugar content, they carmelize beautifully. My daughter (who lived in Puglia) sent me a recipe for Cipollini Crostata, which is really delicious as an appetizer, or with a salad for a luncheon, or as a side dish for supper. It’s good picnic food, because it’s yummy at room temperature, too. Look for that recipe in the August 2015 E-newsletter.
They are very easy to grow from seed, so I planted both white “Bianca di Maggio” (95 days) and “Red Marble” (80 days) varieties this spring. I sprinkle the seeds in rows in flats, then transplant the tiny grass-like plants into four-packs shown above. When they get a little size and seem stable they go from 4-packs into a row in the garden.
The white seedlings seem to be a bit more robust than the red, so I planted them first. I just made a small trench and put the cubes from the 4-packs edge to edge, pulling soil up around the cubes and sprinkling a bit of mulch lightly between the plants. You can space them closely, because they only get about 2″ in diameter. Another row goes right beside them, staggered to provide ample space. Here’s some of this year’s crop, growing happily about mid-June. I have little rows and patches here and there in the potager, tucked in where early crops of spinach, mini-napa cabbage, pak choi and mustards came out.
Knowing how much we love them grilled, and planning to make jars and jars of the marinated ones for antipasto platters over the winter, I actually seeded a third variety, “Red Amposta” about a month after the first sowings went into the potager beds. They are now ready to plant into the beds as other crops come out. Supposedly, they are a good variety for storing over the winter. Fingers crossed.
The first variety planted are now ready for harvest, indicated by the tops falling over, so I’ll start pulling a few of the larger ones to grill, and marinate all the cute small ones. Even if you only have space for a windowbox, grow some cipollini!