Onions are one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow, in my opinion. I late Fall, I order onion sets from Dixondale Farms. They come in bundles of sets that are bout 5-6 inches tall. I plant them fairly deep into very well aerated soil, so that they can expand and grow large. Some don’t do much, for whatever reason, but most of those I plant mature into good sized onions.
Last year, I planted a mix of 1015’s, named by the date the onion seeds are planted, October 15; Red Creole onions, and White Bermudas. Several weeks ago, a few of the onions started to bolt, or go to seed, which means they will not mature any further and should be harvested. When they bolt, a hard stalk grows up the center of the onion, and forms what would eventually be a flower, if you didn’t pull them. They are still perfectly good after they bolt, but should be harvested.
I harvested perhaps 15 bolting onions, mostly the red ones. I’m not sure why, but the red onions seem to bolt first – perhaps because of our extreme and unseasonable weather variations. (As I sit here on April 17, 2013, a cold front will soon roar into Austin, leaving temperatures in the low to mid 40’s at night.)
Last week, several of the onions had started laying down, a sign that they are finished maturing, and will need to be harvested soon. After a ridiculously busy weekend, wherein I didn’t see my garden, I was surprised Monday, to find that nearly half of my onion crop was laying on its side. I finally had time to pull the finished onions out of the ground today.
Some were moderate size, some were the size of softballs, a new experience for me. My best onion harvest yet, and some of the largest ones are still in the ground.
I rinsed them with the hose over the remaining growing onions, so as not to waste any precious water. I then moved them to the top of my fire pit, which is metal mesh, which allows great ventilated space for the onions to dry and form the outer skin you see on grocery store onions. Naturally, I kept some for immediate eating. They are so tender and sweet, I sauteed some as a fajita topper for dinner.
Once they have dried out a bit, I use the garden snippers to remove the green stalk and some of the roots. I then transfer them to a shady spot for a day or two until the snipped part dries out.
Once dried, the onions can be hung in a vented bag and will store for months. I usually run out of my onions 7-8 months after harvesting.
So far most of the red onions that I’ve pulled are fairly medium to smallish. Perhaps not enough for a good round of red onion pickling, a favorite of mine for pickling and canning. I can rely on the farms and farmer’s markets for those.
The universe appears to be in my favor this early Spring, as I have several peppers that will be ready for harvest in the next week, more fresh onions in the ground, and potatoes flowering and nearly ready for harvest. I love little more than sautéed onions, peppers, and potatoes in some Springdale Farm scrambled eggs. Such goodness almost makes the wait for the first tomatoes bearable, and then after that, its game on! And then I’m all about salsa. Eating seasonably is so satisfying; the wait makes every harvest taste so much better.