Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Bumper Crop

When the box of onion plants arrives each March, it holds the possibility and promise of a great summer harvest. Along with the potatoes, the onions are generally the first things we plant in the spring.

Last year, the onions were an utter and dismal failure. The cold, wet spring caused a delay in their planting. The cold, wet spring kept us from getting them weeded when they needed attention. Then, the accident happened, and our focus shifted completely. Travellinging back and forth “over the mountain” was tiring and time consuming; it seemed like we were always running. When we were here, we were doing paperwork, making phonecalls, and attempting to keep up with the bare essentials. We made the joint decision that whatever we were able to get from the garden was a bonus; we were both committed to B’s recovery. God was gracious, and outcome for B was good. The onions, not so much.

This year, I had a vague sense of déjà vu when I opened that box, and breathed a prayer that things would be different this year. Much different!

WOW! Things sure are different.

The onion plants arrived on schedule and looked great. (last year they had looked less than stellar when they arrived) The weather was cooperative when it was time to plant the onion plants. We made a pact to keep up with the weeding schedule, and stuck with it. It was a pleasure to walk through that part of the garden and see the onions looking green and healthy. It seemed that harvest time arrived quickly.

We have been pulling the Walla Walla onions for several weeks.
These are BIG, SWEET onions, not unlike the world famous Vidalia onions. These onions have a short storage life due to their high sugar, low sulphur content. You must enjoy these onions fresh, during their short season.

The onions we grow for winter storage are stronger in taste, but equally delicious. In order to store well, the sulphur content must be higher. That is the compound that gives an onion its pungency. Usually, these are smaller than the sweet onions and far denser.

When the onion tops start to brown and fall over, it is time to pull the onions. We pull them and let them lie out in the hot sun to begin the drying process. They shouldn’t stay out in the weather with the cycle of damp evening dew, followed by hot days. They will begin to cook, not dry. Since summertime is infamous for big afternoon thunderstorms, we allow them to dry slightly and then haul them to the barn. It took a great number of trips to the barn to get the entire crop under cover.

In the barn, they are placed on wire racks with fans blowing underneath for circulation.
The tops will wither and the outer skins of the onions dry into their protective covering. At that point, the tops will be trimmed, and the onions will be stored elsewhere.

The crop is indeed a success. It would appear that every tiny plant we put in the ground back in March formed a good-sized onion. All THREE THOUSAND of them! There should be no shortage of onions this winter. Again, God was gracious.

Tom is already thinking ONION RINGS!

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