Thursday, August 21, 2014

Onion Breath Forever

Onions, onions, onions.  It seems like something not worth growing in the home garden.  They are relatively inexpensive in the store and have a long shelf life.  I am an onion-growing convert however.  They are fairly easy to grow, once you find a variety that works well in your conditions, the curing process is fun and at least the variety I go back to every year is pungent, man!

This year we harvested 78 onions from a 25' x 4' sheet mulch bed.  3 rows were in onions and 1 row of strawberries so the onions took up only 3/4 of the bed.  The onions grew in a 4" layer of compost and leaves.  I added bonemeal in a strip near each row on planting, and fertilized once as they were starting to bulb with a general organic fertilizer.  I didn't know how they'd do in the shallow sheet mulch bed, but they did fabulous.  I'd go outside and gawk at how fat the bulbs poking up above the soil line were getting as it got close to time to harvest them.  

Onions are ready to harvest when the tops fall over at the neck and begin to brown.  Pull them and lay them out in the sun for a day.  If rain threatens, simply bring them into the curing area early.  To cure for 3 weeks, or until they appear as a store bought onion looks, put them somewhere:
  • out of direct sun
  • warm
  • with good airflow (you could hang them or put them on screens)
Let them hang out for 3 weeks and once they are truly dry, you can trim the tops 1" above bulb, or braid them.  Sweet onions need to be used within a few weeks, but storage onions like Copra are good for almost a year under ideal conditions!  Storage at 35 - 40 degrees is ideal for onions. If you don't have that, just put them somewhere cool, in a crate, basket, or box with holes in it.

We don't have a proper root cellar, so I am beginning to think now how we can store our "keeper crops" with the spaces and materials we have.  These will be different conditions for potatoes, onions, and winter squash.  

Copra.  My fav variety.  A long keeper, and easily forms nice bulbs.
Onions are ready when they fall over at the neck.
Onions pulled and drying for a day in the sun.

Front porch converted to onion curing area.  
A Big 'Un!  The thicker the neck, the less likely the onion will store for as long.

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