Friday, January 16, 2015

End of Season Review - Alliums


When it comes to HTML, I'm not a whiz.  I'm not even a quarter of a whiz....if there were negative whizzes, that's where I'd be.

So I think I have been messing up the HTML code on my blog with the tables I have been putting in my review posts (among other things).  This, in turn, was buggering up the feed.  I do all of my tables in Excel - no problems there.  But getting them into a post and having them look halfway decent WITHOUT messing up the code is not so easy - for me, at least.

So I decided to start inserting my tables as images.  Unfortunately, they aren't necessarily as crisp as I would like, but such is life.....so long as my HTML is happy ;)


Alliums

Back in September and October, I wrote fairly extensively about the results of both the onion, garlic & shallot harvests (Onions 2014 – The Results and Garlic & Shallots 2014 – The Results).

To summarize the harvests in table form:

Onions



Garlic




Shallots

 
I grew many different crops this year for the first time and onions was one of them.  Out of all my “firsts”, the onions were, by far, the most successful crop.  I started them from seed and had a few anxious moments along the way with forgetting to water the transplants a few times and then being worried about how small the seedlings were when they went into the beds.

Onion seedlings being planted

But as the summer progressed, my anxiety turned to excitement as the bulbs miraculously started to get bigger and bigger.

Rossa di Milano

I knew that the Ailsa Craigs were supposed to be big onions, but some of them really blew my socks off:

Ailsa Craig

Once harvested, I laid the onions on top of newspaper in the garage.  Eventually, I got around to building a bamboo curing rack, which I talked about in the Garlic & Shallot post that I linked to above.

Onions Curing in Garage
 
This year I spaced my garlic a bit further apart in an effort to increase bulb size, which was decidedly pitiful last year.  Since I only allocate one bed to garlic, the unfortunately consequence of wider spacing should have been fewer garlic scapes.  But for some reason, I was actually able to harvest more - 304 grams vs. 216 grams last year.

Garlic Scapes
 
Have no idea why this was, especially as I made an effort to harvest them sooner (before they formed a full loop) as last year some of them were a bit tough because I waited too long.

In the tables, I included the seed grown “Shallots” under the onion heading instead of the shallot heading.

Camelot Shallot

From the above photo, I'm sure you can figure out why.  At an average of 90 grams (over 3 ounces) each, I am using them more like onions than shallots, especially in recipes where the onion remains raw.


Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

I had never grown onions before, so this year was a first and I was more than happy with the results.  In fact, I was thrilled.

Rossa di Milano & Copra Onions
 
I was thrilled, that is, until I realized that most of the onions had become infected with onion maggots.  In most cases, it was hard to tell just from the onion's exterior how extensive the damage was and I was worried about how well the onions would keep in storage.

I chopped up and froze about 25% of the harvest, choosing onions with the most visible damage.  I also caramelized & froze several pounds in recipe sized batches – this suggestion came from Norma & has already saved me a heap of time when I needed to make an Indian curry or beef stew.

For the remaining onions, I decided to take Daphne’s advice and store them as I would have, had there been no damage.

Storage Onions Hanging in Basement
 
I’m so glad I did this as they are storing extremely well – so far they are all still nice and firm with no hint (as far as my nose can tell) of decay.

Needless to say, the biggest lesson for the year:  The allium beds need to be covered with netting as soon as the seedlings are planted.  In the case of shallots and potato onions, which are already in the ground, I will cover their beds in early spring.

We are going through the stored onions at a good rate, but I won’t know for several months if the amount I grew this year was too little, too much, or just right.  At the moment, I’m leaning towards the current amount being either just right or too much, so I will be sowing the same quantity this year.

The garlic, shallots and potato onions were planted in October, so next year’s crop is off and running.  I talked extensively about the varieties I chose and the changes I made to my current plantings in THIS post.

And even though I had a wonderful onion harvest this year, I’m kind of a worry wart and have my fingers crossed that I can replicate those results next year….beginners luck and that kind of thing ;)

Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

12 comments:

  1. I wish I could grow onions half the size of yours! I think your onions look great. I've never experienced onion maggots before. Hopefully they aren't terrible.

    I didn't grow any onions in 2014. I think I'll have to try and give it a go again this year.

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    1. The onion maggots themselves aren't that bad - they are tiny. They didn't really do that much damage to the onion itself, but the hole that they leave can lead to much faster spoiling.

      I think you should definitely give onions a spot in the garden next year - such a humble vegetable, but a LOT of fun to grow!

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  2. I was a novice onion grower last year also and now I can't believe that I've been gardening for as many years as I have and not grown them before. It is amazing to watch the bulbs form, but then, I'm always amazed at how a tiny seedling can turn into any sort of amazing vegetable. I just about finished planting out the last of my onions, most from bare root starts from Dixondale and a couple of varieties I started from seed. My garlic is up and growing already and I've got seedlings of shallots and leeks nearly ready to for the garden. I think I've gone a bit allium crazy this year! Good luck with your alliums this year.

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    1. Thanks Michelle - And you really have gone all out on the alliums this year!

      Onions are one of those veg that often surprises others when they find out I am growing them. Their general attitude is why bother as they are cheap and prolific.

      But, as anyone who has ever grown onions knows, once you have grown them, you will be hooked - much like garlic. What is it with the alliums...they are all so addictive!

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  3. Really great work with the onions, Margaret! I've been growing onions for about 5 years and have had a lot of struggles. The one great year I had were onions started from seed, but I've been unable to replicate that success. I used sets last year with moderate results. I'll do a mix this year and see if I can pinpoint my problems. I've never tried shallots and did not know they were planted in the fall like garlic? I'd like to try them sometime.

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    1. There you go - that is my point exactly and why I am nervous about this coming year.

      I have always planted my "Golden" shallots in the fall at the same time (and in the same bed) as garlic. They always come through the winter just fine - even our record breaking cold one last year. The Camelot shallots were grown from seed and so I have no idea whether they behave the same way and will overwinter like regular shallots. I threw some in the ground in the fall as an experiment so we shall see if they come up in the spring. I was so impressed with them that I'm growing them again from seed this year too.

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  4. You are too analytical for me, Margaret, and I are an engineer. Good write up. I have grown onions for the past two years and am definitely hooked. I too have had comments, why grow them when they are so cheap. Well, I can grow onions I can't buy anywhere, and I can store onions and have something from the garden during long winter days. Added one of my Saffron shallots to my Sunday morning mushroom omelet today and it put a smile on my face. In 2015 I will be growing 8 varieties, including shallots and leeks.

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    1. Yeah - I'm a numbers kind of girl as you can see ;)

      And you said it David! Onions are used in practically every dish around here and those from the garden are fresher & firmer (even now - 5 months after harvest) than any I can find in the store. I am no stranger to that smile you are talking about!

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  5. I would not be able to begin to keep the records you keep or grow the onions you grow!! My onions did not do very well last year. Nancy

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    1. As I said to David, I love those numbers! One of the great things about vegetable gardening is that you get to try fresh each year with just a little bit more knowledge than you had the last time - for most things, at least ;). Don't give up on those onions, Nancy - next year could be the year when you get that great harvest!

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  6. I wish my onions would last as long as yours. I swear we have every onion disease known to man here and they rot too quickly in storage. After seeing your shallots I'm trying Camelot shallots this year. My hope of course is that they store better than my regular onions (ie more resistant to diseases).

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    1. My regular Golden shallots do extremely well in storage - lasting well over one year. From what I have read, that is much longer than even the long storing onions like Copra. It would be amazing if the Camelot shallots do as well...I am going to use them up last, just to see how well they do.

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