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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vegetable in Review - Onion

Allium Cepa

MMMMMMMMMmmmmmm mmm. Onions, gotta love'm! I use these in just about every meal I make. I have also grown just about every available variety there is. But only a handful I care to keep. I have grown the big reds, walla wallas, Egyptian walking onions, bunching etc. They are all great, but only a few really hold up to the good ol'e Wisconsin weather, and store well for me here. I am quite finicky about the storage part. I needed an onion that wasn't going to turn to mush within a few months of storage. For that I chose an onion called Copra. I am still using them, and I put them in storage around the end of September/beginning of November. Granted some of them are starting to sprout, but that is a long time to keep in storage. They have done well. Most are still very firm, even the ones with sprouts.

 On to the info!

Onions are a warm season vegetable. In Mid spring, when fairly warm plant your seedling that you may have started, or sets outdoors. Space them about 2- 5 inches apart, (I found this give them room to spread out). Harvest is anywhere between 75 to 100 hundred days depending on the variety you have gone with. (However some onions are cold hardy and will come back up in your garden next year if you have covered them, Egyptian walking onions are good for this, so are bunching onions) Onions are ready to harvest when the tops turn yellow and fall over.

Feed at planting time and once again during the growing season. Grow onions in full sun, which they appreciate, and soil heavy in compost doesn't hurt either. I had absolutely huge onions last fall, because I amended the bed before my onions were planted. Thrips and maggots are a few pests that effect onions, but can e avoided if crop rotation is used.

Harvesting : When I harvest my onions, I let the tops turn yellow and fall over. They are still fairly easy to pull out, but use a pitch fork to lightly lift them if need be. Have a place that you can set all your onions on, such as a picnic table, out of the scorching sun, perferably a fairly shady spot with some air movement. I lay my onions on the table to dry, leaving the dirt on them, as it is easier to brush the dirt off when it is completely dry. Let them dry for about a week, the skins will begin to get papery, the dirt will dry, the tops will dry up and look like leather shoestrings. (please keep in mind you might have to move them indoors if it rains, before the week drying time is over!)

Preparing them for storage: When they are dry, I have a bunch of plastic milk crates I got from the local market, that i will use to put the onions in after I have wiped them down and trimmed them up.

You can find them on the Internet fairly easy, or if you know a grocery store you can get them from, they might be happy to sell you some. Or you can find some here:


The reason I use these crates is because they have lots of room for air movement. The last thing you need is to have all of your beautiful onion go rotton within a month because you didnt store them in the right container. Anything that has slats on all 4 sides will work.

I use a little pot scrubber with a handle, it has plastic bristles, you know the kind....I use this to brush the dirt off the onions to clean them, which works quite well. After I have cleaned all, I move to the trimming. I trim the roots off fairly close and the top of the onion stalk. I trim it to about and inch or so, leaving room for shrinkage. (I will be doing a how to video this fall on harvesting and keeping root vegetables and onions. So keep on a look out for that!)

I then throw the onions into the milk crates, and bring them into my basement, which is fairly cool, and put them into a room that is fairly dark as well. That's it...that's how you store onions. However, if you don't have a cool place such as a basement, you can also use a garage, as long as they are kept from freezing. and old working fridge can also be used, if you don't have space in your regular fridge for storing. This fridge can be used "just" for this purpose.


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