Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pulling up the onions

I’ve been reading Michael Pollian’s new book Cooked.  He points out that cooking serves as our extra stomach, a way to predigest food that gives us more net energy than raw food.  Pot dishes made with meat and a combination of vegetables nearly always share one ingredient in common, onions.  I think that stewed foods evolved using onions because onions keep well, make meat more savory and have health benefits.  And they are easy to grow. 

I’ve grown onions for several years and will grow them for years to come.  Last year I harvested just over 14 pounds of onions from a patch about 4 feet by 6 feet.  Most of those were grown from sets, since the seed that was carried over from the previous year did not germinate.  This year I planted two onion patches about 4 feet by 4 feet. 

On Feb 9 I seeded about 120 cells with Ruby Ring onions from Johnny’s and put them under fluorescent lights.  Toward the end of the month I set the two trays of onions in the greenhouse.  The onion seedlings then did a shuffle between the greenhouse and the indoor growing station as the winter weather kept coming back like a bad case of acid reflux.  By mid-March the seedlings were ready to go into the ground but the ground was still partly frozen.  Here's some notes from my log:

March 8:  Moved seedlings back into the greenhouse (weather warmer)
March 25:  4 inches of snow, cold.  Cannot set seedlings into bed yet

March 29:  Transplanted onion seedlings into bed 
Well they had to go into the cold cold ground because the seedlings were rootbound at that point.  For a long time the onion plants looked really weak, a few of them died, and I was beginning to wonder if I should just rip them all out and put in some sets.  Some time in late May they started looking healthier.  Once summer arrived they really started growing and looking like healthy plants. 
Last week a storm came through and flattened most of them.  Today I pulled them out. 
Most of them pop out of the ground with a little tug, and a few need some persuasion with the trowel.  After pulling up a few I began to realize that this was going to be a very good crop of onions.  Here is the first 4’ x 4’ patch pulled up and stacked in a corner of the bed.

The onions were set on the screen frame that I built last year for sun-drying root crops.  That’s more onions than last years crop, and there’s still one bed to go.

Before the next patch could be pulled I took time out to build another screen frame.  Then I pulled up the second patch and set them on the frame.

Beauties aren’t they?  I don’t know if there’s any difference in taste but the red onions sure look better, and most of them take longer to mature than the yellow and white onions, which should mean more poundage.  A few of them divided into scallions.

Here’s all of the onions now drying on the screens.  I’m grinning from ear to ear after an outstanding onion harvest.  Good thing I didn’t replace them with sets.   Cheers.

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