Onions!

Good afternoon readers!

What a lovely day it is too!  Slightly overcast and about 80 degrees.  Perfect gardening weather.  I think I’ll head over there at about 2pm to do some work.

Today, I’d like to talk about onions.  It is basically a staple of typical American diets.  Most people have onions almost daily!  They flavor the tastiest of dishes.  The onion is a cool-season vegetable that can be grown throughout the temperate United States.

From Google Images

Most common gardeners start their onions by using transplants.  This method of growing produces those large, dry, attractive onions with which we are familiar.

Since onions are a cool season vegetable, they should be planted as early as the garden can be tilled.  Mid April would be the ideal time to plant in this region.  Be sure to plant in an area with fertile and moist soil.  Onions also need cool temperatures to aid with bulb development.

Plant your transplants at least 5 inches apart to allow for maximum bulb development.  If you plant them closer, you will lose a significant amount of onion! Allow 12 inches between rows.

Keep onions free from weeds.  They are not the strongest of plants and they do not stand up well to competition.  Any weeds and grasses compete with onions for nutrients and moisture.  Remove all weeds.

Pull green onions after the tops are 6inches tall.  Green onions’ flavor increases with age and size.  They can always be used for cooking.  All parts of a green onion are edible save the roots.

If any part of the plant has started to form flower stalks, remove that plant and use it immediately.

In general, harvest in late July and August when the tops have fallen over.  Allow the plants to mature fully and do not break the top.  Breaking off the top before it matures fully will produce immature bulbs.  Pull the mature onions in the morning, and then allow it to air dry outside until late afternoon.  It is best to dry them out on a dry day, but not too hot and sunny.  If you onions outside on hot, sunny days, the bulbs may sunburn.  After the first day, keep the onions in a shaded area to allow them  to dry out.  This may take up to 3 weeks  with full air circulation.

After preparing your onions, they are yours to use.  But be careful, those onions may make you cry!  When you cut an onion, you are damaging the cell walls, releasing a sulfur compound called propanethial oxide which will float into the air.  When it comes into contact with water, aka tears, it turns into sulfuric acid (ouch!).  Chilling inactivates this compound, allowing you to keep your eyes nice and dry.  If you want to avoid tears, try keeping peeled onions in the fridge before finely chopping.

To keep the smell off of your hands, rinse with lemon juice or vinegar.  Keep that smell off your breath!  Chew on parsley or a coffee bean.

And now an onion recipe!

French Onion Soup! Courtesy of Cooking Light.com January 2005
Yield:  8 servings

From CookingLight.com

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups thinly vertically sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion
4 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 cups less-sodium beef broth
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours.

Preheat broiler.

Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute.

Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

Cooking Light, JANUARY 2005

As always, Happy Gardening!

Adrienne W.

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