Newest Review: ... to the boys to chop or they will get bored and send back massive chunks! *Growing* Onions are quite an easy vegetable to grow, and my... more
Know your onions
Member Name: Kantankrus
Advantages: Cheap and last ages.
Disadvantages: None at all!
I have to say that one of the most successful things I have grown on my allotment is the humble onion. Some might say why bother? Yes, they are cheap enough in the shop but when you can grow your own giving you a full years supply for under a fiver I would have to say Yes! You should bother!
~~~So how do you go about it?~~~
Well obviously. You need some spare land to grow your onions on and then you need to decide whether to grow them from seed or from "sets". I am going to explain how to grow from "sets" as that's how I do mine and don't think there are many people that actually grow them from seeds. (I am sure to be corrected I know, but I find "sets" the easiest route to go down). They are also supposed to be more disease resistant.
The ground should be rich in organic matter but not just freshly manured as this can lead to rotting. Sets are available to buy from Wilko's or various garden centres during early Spring or early Autumn. The ones that you buy in early Autumn are usually called Japanese over wintering onions as they can with stand the coldest of weathers through the winter and will be able to be harvested around June time the following year.
Spring planted sets grow well through the summer with little attention except to keep weed free and will be ready to crop around late July/August time. Red onion sets and white/brown onion sets can be planted but I find I seem to have much better success with the white/brown variety.
~~~How to sow~~~
I usually use a full bed at the allotment and plant the mini bulbs in rows leaving 3 - 4 ins between each one. Looking at the mini bulb, you will see that one end is the root and the other has the tip. You need to gently push the bulb into the soil so that just the tip is showing. You can buy bags of sets that include up to 100 mini bulbs for a few pounds so they go a long way!
When you have filled your bed or wherever you are going to grow them, it is a good idea to cover them with a net as birds can easily pull them out! I keep my net on until they are well established and growing well. You are usually advised to not grow the same crop in the same place each year to stop diseases but I have grown in same place with no problems.
~~~When to harvest~~~
You will know that your onions are ready to be lifted when all the green leaves bend over and start to dry. It's a good idea to lift them on a hot day and leave them laying in the sun for a few hours so the skins go dry.
~~~How to store~~~
This is the bit I love! Plait them! There is an art to it and I remember the first time I did it was a bit of trial and error but I managed it after searching on the internet how to do it. You need a piece of string and you plait the dried leaves along the length of string whilst adding more onions as you go. It's really hard to explain but I make several lengths and then they get hung on a hook in my shed ready for me to just pop to the bottom of the garden each time I need an onion. Onions stored like this last for months and months and if you can plan it right between the over wintering onions and the summer grown ones, you should never have to buy an onion again!!
The humble onion offers lots of health benefits that a lot of people probably aren't aware of. They are rich in quercetin which has been proven to have beneficial effects on the heart. The stronger the onion, the more quercetin. They are good sources of vitamins B and C, beta carotene, potassium and selenium.
The onion can also help with osteoporosis and has cancer fighting properties. Studies have proven that a diet rich in the allium family, (onions, shallots, garlic and leeks), can lower the risk of prostate cancer and also esophageal cancer.
They are full of anti oxidants and anti inflammatories which help with allergy related diseases such as asthma and hay fever.
In ancient Greece, athletes ate onions and Gladiators rubbed them into their bodies to harden their muscles! Not something you want to try at the gym these days unless you want some funny looks and people holding their noses!
~~~Use in cooking.~~~
Any home cook or chef will know that onions are used as the base for so many dishes! They are used as seasoning in dishes ranging from sauces to soups to salads and where would our Spaghetti Bolognese be without the onions?
You can even make a soup out of just the raw ingredient of onions. French Onion Soup is a classic and popular dish. Curry lovers also will know the importance of onions. A good onion base with ginger can 'make' a curry! They can be used raw in sandwiches, as a filling for Quiches and make a lovely bahji!
The onion is fantastic! Grow some of your own and see for yourself! It's the one thing I will continue to grow and enjoy.
Thank you for reading.
Summary: Where would we be without them?