Growing onions must be easy, they’re certainly cheap enough at the supermarket, but I’m not very good at it! My onions are usually small and often too watery to keep well, but not this year. I’m not sure exactly what I’ve done but I have the best crop of onions I’ve ever grown!
After doing a little research, I abandoned my usual practice of buying onion sets or starts and grew my onions from seed. Apparently an uninterrupted growing cycle is critical to producing nice big onions. Of course I had grown onions from seed before with my usual poor results but perhaps I treated the seedlings a little better this time.
Onion seed is best used within a year as it doesn’t keep well, but I used left-over seed that was 2 or 3 years old. I wanted to see if it would germinate and seeded all the old partial packages I had in early March on my laundry room windowsill. After a longish wait (they ARE slow to germinate) they poked their slender, oniony fingers skyward, waving little black seed capsules at me.
I waited and waited for reasonably warm weather before transplanting them outside hoping to provide that all important uninterrupted growing cycle. In early May I could wait no longer, needing the windowsill for other plants and so out they went. Some went into the veggie garden that I amended with compost, manure, lime and bone meal, and others into the new garden that we built with a very expensive topsoil/fish compost blend (these also got some lime and bone meal).At this point the transplants were still tiny and as I planted them I wondered if I should erect little tombstones as well…
Because I just threw in whatever seed I had left-over I have an interesting mix of Varna leeks, Walla Walla onions, Copra onions, Kincho scallions and Ambition shallots. The only disappointment is the leeks; I have grown leeks from transplants before and they grew fat and luscious, these are rather wimpy, I hope they will plump up before winter so I can make Jodi’s Leek soup.
The Copra onions must have been the oldest seed; I have a grand total of 3 onions– but they are growing well.
The Kincho scallions are GIGANTIC! I was looking at their fat juicy stems and wondering if I could use them like leeks, but they don’t have that ineffable, delicate leek flavour. They’ve been adding crunch and kick to my summer salads though.
The Walla Wallas are immense, sweet and delicious, I’m trying to cure them as carefully as possible, but I know that they aren’t great keeping onions so I will eat them up first.
The Ambition shallots are bigger than any I’ve grown before, and they are great keepers so we will be enjoying the fine flavour of shallots well into wintertime, maybe further if I’m frugal with them.
I recently read that you should harvest onions when half of the tops fall over, but rather than take them all at once I’ve been harvesting a few each day or so as they topple. I bring them into the garage and lay them out to cure. In a drier climate I could leave them outside in a shady spot but there is too much moisture in the air here for them to dry out properly, I have learned this the hard way! There are few things more heartbreaking than seeding, nurturing and harvesting a crop of homegrown tastiness and watching it decay before you can eat or preserve it.
This has been a great year for growing onions, the question is… will I be able to repeat my success?