More onions, shallots, and garlic

Reasonable results with garlic Arno

Our good friends Arto and Serafiina were on hand this weekend to assist in various garden tasks, including the onion harvest. In a previous post, I remarked on the best garlic crop we have ever produced, from a late autumn sowing benefitting for the first time from the protection of the polytunnel. I wondered, at the time, how the spring sown outdoor crop might fare. Today, the bulbs were revealed and I cannot say that I am disappointed as they are rather as expected, perhaps even a little better. Some of the bulbs are rather small, whilst others are of a useful size. They cannot compare, however, with those from the polytunnel, which were larger by far, and of high quality. I have yet to try the bulbs for flavour, and will not do so for some time, as these should store for longer.

The garlic, shallots and onions were all sown rather late this year: 16th April for garlic, shallots, and red onions in one bed, and 25th April for the yellow onions in another bed. This is more or less the end of the planting window and, given the late sowing, I am very satisfied with the results; I would like to get them planted a bit earlier next year, but time and weather are always in charge.

The onions have been ready to remove from their beds for a few weeks now, but like much of the kitchen garden, things have been neglected in favour of house renovations, which will continue for much of the year. Today, though, with some help, the crop was removed from the ground and moved under cover to finish drying. Unlike the garlic, which I was expecting to suffer somewhat from the late sowing, I was not so concerned regarding the onions. I dare say that larger specimens might have been produced, but these were neither expected nor particularly desired. What we have managed to produce is a large harvest of good quality, good sized onions, of the sort I favour for culinary purposes. Most of the yellow onions, Sturon and Stuttgarter, appear to be sound, so I am hopeful of a reasonable storage life. I have grown both of these varieties for several years, and they can be relied upon to produce a decent harvest. I am also satisfied with the crop of red onions, Red Barron, although a few bolted earlier in the year, and still carry the remains of a large flower spike – these, if they remain sound at all, will need to be used first, as they cannot be expected to keep long in storage. From past experience, I rather suspect that the red onion varieties grown from sets may be more prone to bolting and also rather less robust. Despite the hot, dry weather, and my generally inadequate attention to watering the outdoor crops, I was very pleased to see few, if any, of the yellow onions bolting.

In the recent onion related post, I considered the matter of whether stems ought to be bent over to encourage maturation of the bulbs, and also the optimum moment to harvest. At the time, looking at the outdoor beds, one might have been tempted to pull some of the crop, but it is pleasing to note that the bulbs have swollen significantly since then, and it is well worth giving them that little extra time when the stems are bent over to finish their task. As it happens, we were late pulling them, so they definitely had reached their maximum size.

Unlike the polytunnel crop, the shallots provided rather mixed results, with some reasonable sized bulbs, but rather too many small and decidedly unimpressive. Perhaps these will be found to be suitable for pickling, but I will review that possibility after they have finished drying. The shallots may well have performed better had I managed to get them in the ground earlier in the year, although the weather was rather cold and spring took some time to take hold.

Overall, though, a very satisfactory and substantial crop, and the largest we have produced so far. As we use quite a lot of onions and shallots in the kitchen, not to mention garlic, it will be interesting to see both how long they remain in good condition and how long the crop lasts. We do still have a few small onions grown from seed to harvest later – the elongated Rossa Lunga di Firenze, the highly prized Tropea Rossa Tonda, and, perhaps more well known here, the small, flat ‘cipollini’ type, Borettane. I do not grow these in large quantities, but, along with French shallots, these are amongst the real treasures of the onion world.

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