Saturday, June 16, 2012
If there's one good thing about this warm, dry weather we've been having, it's that it's perfect for onions. I've been hovering over mine for about two weeks now waiting for the majority of their stalks to fall over. They reached a pretty respectable 2 feet tall, despite my moaning all spring that I am a terrible onion farmer. I was really afraid that I had planted them too deep or that I had left them in the ground too long. And, of course, there were the naughty onions that tried to flower. But other than fretting over them, I haven't done anything to them other than throw some straw around them when I planted them on January 30th.
That's almost 6 months of waiting, so onion farmers must be some really patient people.
The big question I needed to answer as a first-time onion grower was "how do you know when your onions are ready to harvest?" Here's what I found from extensive research.
You can actually harvest bulb onions at any time, as the green stalks are edible and great in salads. But, if you are growing onions for storage, the rule of thumb for pulling up the bulbs is to wait until the majority of the stalks have fallen over and the ground is dry.
No need for digging...just grasp the onion plant by the thick stem and pull. They come up rather easily, as onions are shallow growers. I only had one monster onion that gave me a little grief and I had to use the hand spade.
Preparing Onions for Storage
Once they're pulled, move them to a location that is out of direct sunlight (like your porch) and place them on a screen (like an old screen door laid flat) so that air can circulate around them and dry them out completely. Some folks swear by leaving them out in the sunlight for a couple of days, but just be aware that white onions will discolor if you do this. I'm moving mine onto the front porch.
I'm pretty happy with my first onion harvest. A couple of them were about 2.5" in diameter and I had one set of sisters (2 onions that grew together), but the majority of them were pretty large at about 4 inches. These are insanely easy to grow and can even be grown in containers, so I encourage you to give onions a try in your own garden.
It's gardening and canning seasons, everybody! You can get some great ideas on the Garden Life, Farmgirl Friday, Ole Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Carnival of Home Preserving blog hops.