Over the past few years as we have been experimenting with our gardens, we discovered that one of our favorite vegetables, the onion, was easy to grow and store. It’s pungent flavor is used widely throughout the world. One of the oldest vegetables , it’s found in a large number of dishes throughout most of the world’s cultures.
The onion is easily propagated, harvested and stored. Like their cousin, the garlic, onions are members of the Allium family. Both are rich in powerful sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent odors and for many of their health benefits.
Types of Onions
Onions are a great vegetable for anyone that is just starting a garden. They are simple to grow and they have many uses in the kitchen. You can grow them for use as green onions or let them mature and enjoy them as delicious bulb onions. They come in different varieties such as white onions, yellow, red, green and sweet to name a few. Even the sweet onions have their own claim to fame. The Vidalia from Georgia, the Walla Walla from Washington and the Maui from Hawaii are a few of the more popular sweet onions.
The kind of onion you plant will be up to your personal taste as well as the amount of space you have for planting. Do you want them for harvesting as food and storing them? Then you might want to grow the strong flavored yellow onion which keeps well. Do you want them for seed-bearing? Then be aware that seed-bearing onions are day-length sensitive and require a certain number of daylight hours before they will begin to grow a bulb (long, intermediate, and short-day varieties). There are so many choices and considerations that it can be another post all to itself.
Our Onion Harvest
This is how we fared. The first year that we grew onions, we grew yellow onions. Although most onions seem to prefer full sun, ours did very well in a corner of the yard that gets moderate sun. Since we had never grown them before, we planted extra seeds figuring that we would lose some of them. Well, all of the seeds took and we ended up with one hundred onion plants! This actually worked out to be very beneficial for us.
You can plant the seeds directly outside, about ¼ – ½ inch deep and about 4 inches apart. As they start to grow, you can thin some and use them as green onions, or let them all mature to bulbs. We did the later. Other than making sure they were watered and occasionally weeding, they were pretty much maintenance free. Another nice feature is that they don’t take up a lot of space. We were able to grow these 100 hundred onions in an area approximately 8 feet by 4 feet.
Once they are ready for harvest, the green tops of the plant start to turn yellow and fall over. Simply pull them up and out of the ground, careful not to damage the bulb. We also recommend letting them dry out for about 2 weeks. Just place them in a dry place with the tops still attached and allow for air circulation. After they have dried for a while, remove the tops leaving about an inch and clean off any remaining dirt.
As with most fruits and vegetables, onions can be stored in several different ways. One way is to hang them in a nylon stocking, keeping them separated in a cool and dry place. Place one onion in the stocking, then tie a knot, place another onion, tie a knot etc. until the stocking is full. In general, store them in a dry and cool place, the cooler the better.
I haven’t tried this but another simple technique is to wrap them separately in foil and store the fridge. Supposedly, they will last for up to a year. I will be trying this with a few of our onions this year to measure the effectiveness, but I wonder if there will be onion odor throughout the fridge affecting other foods.
You can always pickle them and store them in your mason jars. This year we will also try dehydrating some.
The method we first used was freezing. We peeled all of the onions, cut the ends off and them sliced them into about ¼ slices. We used Ziploc bags to store. I put one or two onions per bag depending on the size. Since they were laying flat in a Ziploc bag, they really did not take up that much room in the freezer. One thing I did find, was that when they were thawed, they were not very crisp, but, for lack of a better word, they were ‘soggy’. But this did not pose a problem for us at all since almost every time we use onions, they are sauteed, or put into a soup etc.
The only time I could really have seen that being a problem is if you are in the habit of putting onion slices on a hamburger or that type of situation.
As things turned out, with this harvest, we had enough onions that they lasted us almost a year to the very week we first stored them!
So, if you are looking for something simple to start with and perhaps you may not have a lot of space, try onions.
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