Rainy days and Sundays always get me down when I can not garden!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Long and Short of Growing Onions

 "An onion can make people cry but there's never been a vegetable that can make people laugh"  
Will Rogers

My favorite soup is Onion Soup, with or with out the cheese and the bread.

Onions are part of the allium family.  Like chives, garlic, leeks and shallots, onions are edible bulbs.  The origins of onions are unclear, but believed to have originate in Asia, Iran  or Pakistan.  Writings dating back 5000 years, describe gardens with onions growing in them.  Onions grew wild, but may be one of the earliest cultivated crops.  Because onions are easy to transport, could grow in a variety of climates and soil conditions, stored well for later use, and fresh, prevented thirst, they became an important food source.

Onions are cool season crops, grown in early spring (long day) in the north, or the fall (short day) in the south.  The number of hours of daylight, triggers the bulbing action.

Onions can be started from seeds, or from sets.

In the North, start seeds indoors about 12 weeks before the last frost date.  In the south, start seeds indoors in August.  Onion seeds do not keep very well, so you may need to start with a fresh packet each year.  Seedlings should start to emerge in 7 to 10 days.  Thin to 1/4" to 1/2" apart when tops are about 4" tall. Trim the tops to about 1 inch using the greens in cooking etc.  Continue to trim tops to encourage root and bulb growth, stopping a week or two before transplanting outside.  Fertilize weekly.

Sets  are direct sown into the garden.  Long day sets are planted in early spring (April) while short day sets are  planted in the fall (October).   Choose small bulbs, spacing 3-4 inches apart, with tops at soil level.

Plant onions in raised mounds or hills, 4" high and 20" wide.  Leave about a 10" furrow between each row.  This allows for good drainage and prevents rot. Onions like a  soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.

Onions are ready to be pulled when the tops have fallen over and turned brown. Young onions can be harvested for greens.

 Crock pot Onion Soup

3-4 large yellow onions...peeled and sliced into rings
1 stick of butter (divided)
2+cloves of garlic...minced
7-8 cups of beef broth
sea salt and pepper
IT flour
IT Worcestershire (or hot pepper sauce...few drops)
bay leaf
1/4 -1/2 t dried thyme
French bread (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat 4 T of butter in a skillet on low heat, without burning.  Add onions and saute for about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and continue to cook until onions are translucent and soft.  Add the flour, stirring to blend.  Transfer to the crock pot.  Add the beef broth, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, Worcestershire, and remaining butter.   Cook on low for about 6 hours.  Remove bay leaf and adjust seasonings.
Ladle into ovenproof bowls.  Top with French bread and sprinkle with cheese.  Place under broiler, until cheese is melted and bread has browned.

"It's hard to imagine civilizations without onions"  Julia Child

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