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Reader's Questions - Onions
Please also see the page on Onions within this website.

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Question:  What animal would be eating my onions in the garden?  I have some that I wintered over and something has broken down the tops and chewed almost all of them off.  I didn't think onions would be popular with raccoons or anything....HELP !!!
Answer:  I know what it's not.  It's not a squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, dog, cat, groundhog, mole, bird, deer, snake or even a rat - all of whom even in desperation would likely walk away from an onion dinner.  I'm betting my dollar on slugs.  I have seen slug damage on onions, and it looks very much like you describe - the tops are all chewed up and some even look bitten in half. It will fool  you into thinking a much bigger animal has gotten into the onion patch.  One way to tell for sure - go out there with a flashlight in the dead of night and take a look.  Slugs feed at night and that's why you are missing all the action.  The good news is that slugs are fairly easy to stop.  I'm not one for banishing every pest in the garden so I'm not going to detail ways of killing all the slugs in your area here, but there are plenty of other ways to minimize the damage they do to plants you want to keep healthy.  Slugs have soft bellies and even though they are slugs and not known for their brilliance, they know enough to stay off sharp, uncomfortable surfaces.  So put a sharp, uncomfortable surface around your onions and your problems will be few.  A few suggestions are surround the plants with crushed eggshells, gravel chips, nut shells, or even roofing shingles or sandpaper.  Anything with a rough surface will do.  I have also heard that slugs don't like copper - something about the ions that copper gives off.  You could surround the plants with pennies and see how that works. Another suggestion is to surround the plants with lint from your clothes dryer.  Apparently they get tangled up in it and they don't find that fun.  So verify that it is indeed slugs, and then be imaginative in ways to divert them without destroying the whole population - the birds who think they are tasty treats will very much appreciate that!

Question:  Are onion stems OK to eat? The part that is out of ground? Are these called scallions? If yes what are some other plants stems, leaves ,and etc are OK to eat. I have various plants and they look good to eat.
Answer:  Onion stems are absolutely ok to eat.  The immature onion (before the bulb forms) is considered a scallion or green onion.  You can use these for whatever purpose pleases you.  The younger the onion, the more mild the taste, so clip at any stage in the growth process and use appropriately for any recipe.  You don't say what other plants you have, but many common vegetables have edible foliage or flowers.  Squash flowers come to mind, as do radish leaves, snap bean leaves, and lima bean leaves.  Avoid tomato foliage and vines, potato sprouts and green parts of potatoes, and young asparagus stems, as these are all known to have toxic properties.  Of course, this is not a complete list, but rather just what I know about off the top of my head, so do look up anything you are considering eating beforehand to be sure.


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