Wednesday, September 21, 2011

There's More To Onions Than Meets The Eye (Or Nose!)

This year I decided to plant yellow onion starts for the first time.  Actually, I had no idea that a gardener could plant garlic and onion up here with our drenched soil conditions, but they do beautifully. You can actually see the little sprouts in my swimming pool garden bed post.
About a month later, they were quite a bit taller as you can see in the pools in this shot:
Nice tall green shoots in both pools!

About a month and a half later, many of my shoots were falling over and yellow. Assuming that these were just 'plug and pull' like my seed potatoes and other root veggies, I went out to start harvesting the goodies. Well, let's just say the first few I pulled out were rotten, black, balls of stench. I hurled those far away into the woods! Blech!  Then the next ones I pulled looked yellow, smelled fine, but were soft, too. I figured they were on their way to rotten-ness, so I began pitching those as well. Thankfully after the 4th or 5th toss, I had a sudden thought that maybe, just maybe, I should go look this up before throwing away all those bulbs.  I am so glad I did!!!

First off, onions are definitely not 'plug and pull' veggies. What I gleaned from countless websites like this one, is that when you see the tops bent over, or starting to bend, go ahead and fold them completely over flat on the soil. Then give them another 10 days to 2 weeks. This basically tells the onion that it's foliage is dead and to put all the food and energy into the root.  Then you pull the onions out (even if they feel soft) and lay them out to cure for a day or two in the sun before moving them in the shade to dry for another couple of weeks.  Unfortunately the sun was elusive during the month of August in my neck of the woods, so I just laid them out on a table in front of my sliding glass door.  Sure enough! After a couple of weeks the onions had hardened up and acquired that flaky outer skin that store onions have. Hooray!

I left the tops long on my onions so that I could braid and hang them for winter storage. I can't tell you how braiding onion tops made me feel more like Ma Ingalls than any other experiment I've done. It was so fun and I love having the little braids hanging on the rack by the back door of our garage.  Unfortunately I am just now taking a picture after we have already consumed and shared about a third of the little gems, but you get the idea.
Braided onions! How much more down home can ya get?

Are onions a little more work and maintenance than carrots and radishes? Yes. Will I still plant them next year? YES! AND I plan to add garlic bulbs into the mix. What a smelly, wonderful harvest!

1 comment: