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Sets or Pearls

August 29th, 2013

Very early this spring, I direct sowed some onion seed in the low tunnel. I added a label that said “bunching onions”. Since I had seed for red bunching onions, I wasn’t surprised when they came up with red stems. Then, they started to bulb a little, not exactly what I thought was going to happen.
red pearl onions 1
Evidently, these were bulbing onions and not bunching onions. I don’t know if I planted the wrong packet of seed, or if the seed packet was mislabeled. It doesn’t really matter, I can use these onions as pearl onions or I could save them and use them as sets for next year. I don’t usually grow onions from sets because they have a tendency to flower and I don’t find that they store as well.
red pearl onions 2
Of course pearl onions would be nice as well, I was thinking I might pickle them if I chose to use them in that way. Peeling all those onions will be a chore though, not something I’m looking forward to.

Would you save these and plant them or enjoy them as pearl onions?

Best Harvest Ever!

August 17th, 2013

I’m a lover of onions and can never seem to grow enough of them. Over the past couple years, I’ve been augmenting my bulb onions with other alliums (read my post about alternative alliums here). Even so, I always run out of onions and other alliums and end up buying a few at the farmers market.  This year might be the first year I don’t have to.
Onion Harvest 1
Onion Harvest 3
Onion Harvest 2
The main crop of storage onions was harvested last week, here’s a look at what I have to squirrel away in the larder.  They’re drying in the upstairs of our garage where it’s nice & warm. It’s quite impressive I must say, I’ve never had enough space to grow this many onions.  If you can believe it, this is only 3/4 of my crop, there are some still growing in the garden to be harvested in a few weeks.
Onion Harvest 5
The main varieties I grew were: Copra, Australian Brown, Sedona, Cortland, and Redwing.  I had seeds for Ailsa Craig, but somehow they didn’t get started, I guess the seed packet got lost in the shuffle.  I also started seed for a red torpedo onion, which never germinated.
Onion Harvest 6
Onion Harvest 4
I already have a long row of leeks in the garden for next spring and three different kinds of bunching onions as well.  The perennial leek bulbs will be planted soon, along with the potato onions and shallots as well.  Little by little, I’m achieving allium independence – which is a beautiful thing if you consume as many alliums as we do.  This large crop of onions will save me a good deal on groceries, looks like I can buy more of my favorite chocolate (which happens to be Taza).

Do you grow alliums in your garden? How many different kinds do you grow?

The Edible 2011 Garden is Here

January 25th, 2011

On January 16 I started my first flats seeds for the 2011 edible gardening season. I started half a flat of each ‘Red Burgundy’ and ‘Borettana Cipollini’ onions. Onions like warm soil, so I put it on the 10″ x 20″ seedling heating mat my mom lent me. I covered the flat with a clear dome to keep in the warmth and the moisture and waiting, checking on them every day of course.

When I checked them in the morning on January 21 and I had germination! That’s pretty quick for onion seeds, they always seem to take a little extra time. Of course there were only a dozen or so tiny shoots on that day. Seeing those first little green shoots of the seed starting season is always an exciting thing!

Yesterday every soil block in the flat had at least one little green shoot and most of them had three. Looks like these onions will be ready to plant out in the garden come March. I can’t wait!


I also have other onions in the basement planted only 2 days later, but since they’re not on a heating mat they haven’t germinated yet. I ordered a 48″ x 20″ heating mat which will have enough room for four flats. I’m hoping it arrives soon so I can start 4 more flats of onions. If you’re planning on starting a lot of vegetables that like warm soil as onions, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, a heating mat is definitely a good investment. Especially if you happen to have your seeds starting area in a 55 degree basement like I do. At least it’s the perfect temp down there for spinach and lettuce seedlings, which I take full advantage of mid-summer when starting my fall greens.

Do you use heating mats in your seed starting efforts?

Harvesting Potato Onions

July 7th, 2010

I blogged earlier this spring about the potato onions I planted last fall. They’re kind of like shallots in that they multiply from a main bulb. I wasn’t sure how well these would do in my soil, I can’t seem to grow a nice sized onion. I had a few of them planted in the raised beds in the back and a few planted in my front foundation border.

According to Southern Exposure:
Heirloom potato onions enjoyed widespread popularity before the turn of the century. Nearly every gardener grew potato onions and they were available in yellow, white, and reddish-brown varieties, the yellow being most common. Potato onions are still a local favorite in some areas of Virginia. Each bulb cluster of potato onions may contain many bulbs, averaging 2 to 2-1/2″ in diameter. When a small bulb (3/4″) is planted, it will usually produce one or two larger bulbs. When a large bulb (3 to 4″) is planted, it will produce approximately 10 to 12 bulbs per cluster. These bulbs of various sizes may be used for eating, storing, or replanting. By replanting a mixture of sizes you will have plenty of sets for next year’s crop and plenty of onions for eating during the year. Potato onions can increase 3- to 8- fold by weight each year depending on growing conditions. Potato onions store better than most seed onions, and individual bulbs can be grown in flower pots to produce a steady supply of green onions during the winter.

The ones I had planted in the back garden didn’t grow as large as on the ones in the front garden. I ended up with a wide variety of sizes, which will be nice for cooking. The ones in the front garden are the largest onions I’ve ever grown here at Chiot’s Run. I’m very impressed with these onions and I’ll definitely be saving a few to plant this fall. These are definitely the nicest onions I’ve ever grown here in my little garden. (I just weighed mine and I planted 8 oz in the fall and harvested almost 3 lbs worth of onions)

I haven’t cooked one yet, but I’ve never met an onion I haven’t liked, so I’m pretty sure these will be great. I’ll be saving a few of the medium sized onions to replant this fall. Once I see how well these store, I may be planting more and more of these each year. They’re quite easy since you overwinter them in the garden; no seed starting or set planting in the spring and they take up a little less space than regular onions since they multiply from the main bulb. One of the things I liked about them was that they were quite beautiful in the garden this spring when they’re growing vigorously. I’ll definitely be trying a few other varieties of shallots and perennials onions in the coming years.

Have you ever grown shallots or potato onions?

Perennial Potato and Egyptian Walking Onions

March 28th, 2010

Over the past couple years I’ve been reading about permaculture and have been looking for ways to incorporate more of these techniques into my gardening. One of the things that many permaculture advocates suggest is using as many perennial vegetables as possible to limit the need to disturb the soil by working it too much. Adding more perennial fruits and vegetables would also help with the gardening work load! Since I love trying to things, especially in the garden I decided I’d try my hand at growing perennial onions and Egyptian Walking onions. I searched on-line and found them at Southern Exposure.

According to Southern Exposure:
Heirloom potato onions enjoyed widespread popularity before the turn of the century. Nearly every gardener grew potato onions and they were available in yellow, white, and reddish-brown varieties, the yellow being most common. Potato onions are still a local favorite in some areas of Virginia. Each bulb cluster of potato onions may contain many bulbs, averaging 2 to 2-1/2″ in diameter. When a small bulb (3/4″) is planted, it will usually produce one or two larger bulbs. When a large bulb (3 to 4″) is planted, it will produce approximately 10 to 12 bulbs per cluster. These bulbs of various sizes may be used for eating, storing, or replanting. By replanting a mixture of sizes you will have plenty of sets for next year’s crop and plenty of onions for eating during the year. Potato onions can increase 3- to 8- fold by weight each year depending on growing conditions. Potato onions store better than most seed onions, and individual bulbs can be grown in flower pots to produce a steady supply of green onions during the winter.

The potato onions looked like shallots and the Egyptian onions were tiny little bulbs, not quite what I was expecting.

Egyptian Onions are described by Southern Exposure this way:
The onion to plant if you always want onions. Egyptian Walking Onions grow perennially in a bed. Hardy bulbs set bulblets on stalks. Air bound bulblets will sprout new smaller stalks, which fall over and replant themselves, hence the name “Walking”. Bulbs can be harvested over Fall and Winter. Green Onions can be harvested selectively as they grow. Plant them where you intend to have them for a long time, as they are quite hardy.

I planted both of these last fall and I was pretty excited when I saw the potato onions and the walking onions coming up this spring. I’m interested to see how they do here in the gardens and what the flavor is like. Not having to plant as many onions each year will be nice if these work out. I’ll be sure you keep you posted.

Do you have any perennial vegetables or fruits in the garden?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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