Going large with onions

Well the storm didn’t eventuate, not on the scale the boffins were suggesting.  Well not here anyway.  So, it would seem I battened down the hatches for no real reason.   But it still wasn’t great weather for most of the week, and by the time the sun showed its face I was fully immersed in an indoor project and didn’t even look out the window to notice it. 

Onions ready for harvest
When the tops flop over, onions are ready for harvest.

But one thing I did get done before the so-called bad weather hit was I harvested the onions that had their tops flopped over.   I never really grow quite enough onions for the whole year and so I try to grow a good supply of Pukekohe Longkeepers as they last months in storage.  To try to reduce the gap between eating our own and buying them in, I grow early onions with the intention of having enough early ones to stop buying store bought onions sometime in November and pushing out needing to start eating the Longkeepers for as long as possible before the early ones start going soft as they don’t keep so well.

the onion bed
The Pukekohe Longkeepers still have a while to go yet, but I would love to have had more of them growing in the garden.

While it seems like a great plan in theory, in reality getting the balance can be quite tricky.  My favourite early onions have been discontinued by my favourite supplier and so I needed to look elsewhere for a similar onion that will perform well and be ready earlier in the season.  After much searching I settled on a Yellow Spanish Onion.  All I could do was hope these would become my new favourites and behave in a similar way to my old favourites.

Drying onions
Drying onions in a sunny dry place until the green turns brown and crispy and they form papery protective layers means they will store well. The greenhouse makes a great spot, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot in there.

The second spanner in the works was this season my Longkeepers didn’t germinate as well as I would have liked and so between all the onions there were enough to fill the bed.  However, with a view to storage in my 1 x 5m bed I like to have 3m of Longkeepers and 2m of early onions as that is as close as I have got to making the storage solution work out.  This season I had 2m of Longkeepers and 3m of Spanish Yellow and it was these that flopped over – according to plan, in November.

Large onions
Most of my onions are large. I was aiming for the biggest ones to be the size of the one in the centre with the marker as a size comparison.

Last season my onions were a little on the large side.  I like to have meal sized onions, so I don’t end up with halves lingering in fridge stinking the place out.  So, this season I decided to plant them closer together in an attempt to make them smaller as they compete for space, light, and nutrients.  It was always going to be a risk of reducing the airflow and last year downy mildew was a problem.  This season the mildew stayed away, and the onions didn’t seem to mind at all.

Red Onions
The red onions also flopped their tops so I harvested them too.
Red Onions
These had a similar problem to the Yellow Spanish onions in they were large as well. Nobody needs that much red onion sprinkled through a salad. I will need a plan here as well… I did see somewhere that if you slice one up and have it in a jar of vinegar or lemon juice you can have readily available pickled red onion in the fridge for quick snacks, salads and sandwiches anytime.

Not only were my onions on average bigger than last season, but there were more of them as I had squeezed 7 in a metre row where I would have normally put 6.  So now I have loads of ginormous onions that will probably do 2 – 4 meals per onion and will stink out my fridge.   But I suspect they won’t keep all that well as they don’t feel as dense as the Longkeepers.  

Pearl Drop Onions
And don’t get me started on the Pearl Drop Onions. Their tops flopped too and they too were large.
Pearl Drop Onions
The Pearl Drop Onions have a recommended spacing guide of 5cm apart and should look like the one on the right. They are supposed to be great for pickled onions however, most of mine are possibly too large to fit in a jar.

Either we will need to eat a lot more onion than normal or I need to come up with a practical solution.  I am thinking I may need to freeze or dehydrate them as well as use as many as I can fresh.  This could work out well in the long run.  Because if we eat as many as we can fresh, but preserve some in other ways as well, and then before they are showing signs of wanting to cross over to the bad side, switch to the Longkeepers and preserve the rest.  Then when we run out of Longkeepers we can reach into the freezer for our onion needs and because they are so huge and there is a 7th more of them it should eek out the season and we may even manage the whole year without buying any.  So, I guess my initial dismay of having so many large, short keeping onions will turn out to be a win after all.

Come again soon – Summer starts next week.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

11 thoughts on “Going large with onions

  1. Slice your onions ready to use then freeze them. I have never done it but have eaten them and they were great.

  2. We use (bought) frozen sliced onion in cooking, you wouldn’t know the difference from fresh once they’re cooked. Don’t know if it would work for red onion though, as these are normally eaten fresh & raw.

  3. Definitely yes to the easy pickling of red onion with a handy bit of vinegar ready to go – we’ve just started doing it and it’s fab 🙂

    1. I find fresh red onion a bit too pungent and it stays with me all day so I always give them a bit of a soak first to take the edge off but I never thought to do the whole onion in a jar in the fridge. : o)

  4. I sometimes have a half onion in the fridge, but I contain the pong by putting the cut side on the inside of a jar lid, and then screwing the jar down on top of it. Of course, you still need to find a timely use for Part 2.

      1. Well, I sort of figured that, but I did not bother to think what makes our winter start when it does; if it is a date on the calendar, or the solstice. I suppose it does not matter, because I am in California anyway. There is not much of a winter here.

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