I’itoi onions are the kind of vegetable that could make the owner of a Chia pet jealous.Brought to the desert Southwest by Jesuit missionaries around 1699 to 1700, the I’toi proved to be ideal for the type of agriculture practiced by the native Tohono O’odham peoples, known as Ak cin, which means watching for summertime monsoon rains. When rain was coming, crops such as these onions were planted, and the onions sprouted to edible size in a small number of days.
My two miniature Sonoran Deserts in a pot are a combination of well composted chicken manure with a couple of handfuls of masonry sand. Growing in containers will insure that the desert onions will have plenty of drainage when we receive one of our monsoon level rains. Having grown these before, I know it also won’t be long before these onions will be ready to be divided, and we will be in onions forever, unless we neglect them.
I’itoi onions can be used as something of a giant version of chives, by clipping just the green parts. They also can be used, Louisiana style, as a fast growing shallot. As a plant that has made it on this side of the pond for over three hundred years, it is an heirloom among heirlooms.