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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?

15 Comments to “Sets or Pearls”
  1. Adelina Anderson on August 29, 2013 at 6:55 am

    I would use them as pearl onions. Love to use pearl onions in stews.

    Reply to Adelina Anderson's comment

  2. angie h on August 29, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Apparently I need a primer on onions-growing them and eating them and all the different types! I would probably save and plant them. I don’t know what to do with pearl onion…are they just tiny onions or do they have a different flavor?

    Reply to angie h's comment

  3. Adriana on August 29, 2013 at 7:25 am

    I too ended up with a bunch of small pearl onions and was thinking of pickling them too. I read that you can blanch them and the skins slip right off.

    Reply to Adriana's comment

  4. Nebraska Dave on August 29, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Susy, I think it’s just amazing that you grow onions from seed. Does growing them in a tunnel help with weed control? My problem with onion seeds is that they are so delicate in the beginning that the weeds take over and pulling out the weeds would pull out the onion sprouts. You mentioned awhile back to start them under the grow lights before setting them out. Perhaps I’ll try that next year. I’ve never really been successful at growing onions, yet.

    Yeah, the answer to your question is I’d eat them.

    Have a great onion decision day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

    • Susy on August 29, 2013 at 9:49 am

      It actually doesn’t help with weeds much to grow them a tunnel, except for the fact that the weeds usually come up a little later. I find seeding onions in flat to be the best way. Like you, direct sowing is tough for onions because they can take a long time to germinate and they’re so small when they do. Since they have rather shallow root systems they’re also so much easier to accidentally pull when weeding than other vegetable.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Myra S. on August 29, 2013 at 8:43 am

    We planted white, yellow, and red onions. They ended up no larger than ping-pong balls. We’d expected them to grow larger for storage but not go. Tasty all the same!

    Reply to Myra S.'s comment

    • Susy on August 29, 2013 at 9:50 am

      I’ve had onions not size up much either. They do like a lot of water, no competition from weeds and regular fertilization (though not too much). The smaller onions will store longer and they are actually more nutritious than big ones.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Trish on August 29, 2013 at 9:09 am

    We had some onions that size last year and I used them whole in pickles that called for onions, so I was only ever peeling a few at a time. When I pickled garlic, I blanched the cloves which made them much easier to peel; I’m assuming you could do the same with the onions. One thing to watch with the red onions is that the color tends to bleed a little and change the color of the other contents of the pickle, depending on what else is in there.

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  7. Joan on August 29, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I think Trish’s idea of blanching them is worth trying – if so, they’d be great pickled! I don’t think I’d bother to peel them all though, I’d probably try planting them next year instead.

    Reply to Joan's comment

  8. whit on August 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I just had the same thing happen to some of my Walla Wallas and Copras.Some bulbed, some didn’t get as big as I had hoped. Thinking those little ones will get planted next year in our high tunnel.

    Reply to whit's comment

  9. Natalie B. on August 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I’d save them and plant them next year. The peeling would be too much for me!

    Reply to Natalie B.'s comment

  10. scott on August 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I find that if i don’t start the onions inside in jan/feb they won’t grow to size. I need to brush up on the day length issue for onions.

    i usually replant them for next year and harvest them early. I have experimented with bloom removal but do not recall any notable results. I think the cipollini type was more forgiving with the blooms than the round onions. My shallots do the same thing. i am able to keep regular water on them and this seems to let them get big enough even with blooms. I don’t remove the blooms on my shallots anymore because it allows rain water in and they rot.

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  11. Lemongrass on August 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    i would save some for next season and use some as pearl onions. i love them that way in pumpkin soup with some corn dumplings.

    Reply to Lemongrass's comment

  12. Deb on August 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    I grew onions from seed this year, many dozens of teeny plants come up. I sprinkled the seed in a large container and when they were about3-4″ tall i transplanted all those teeny plants. Now they are much larger than the ones from the sets I bought. I also did leeks and they’re even tinier than the onions to transplant. Yummy eating this summer and fall till i run out.

    Reply to Deb's comment

  13. Dan on August 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Have you tried blanching the pearl onions to peel them? Just a minute or two in boiling water and then into cold water. Nip the root end and then squeeze the top end and they will pop right out.

    Reply to Dan's comment

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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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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