sweet onions

Sweet Onion Savvy

I just picked up my sweet onion sets and couldn’t wait to get them in the ground. They take about six months to grow, meaning my November planting won’t be ready to harvest until at least May, maybe June. But the wait is worth it.

fresh sweet onions

Come spring, I’ll have tons of sweets. And I do mean tons. My local seed store sells these gals in batches of 100, so whether I need that many or not, that’s how many I’m planting. Which brings me to rule number one in my garden: keep it simple and make it easy!

onion-sets-in-channels

Remember my corn channels? I have onion channels now. It’s my new favorite way to plant. I simply drag a hoe down the row, place my onions at the proper distance apart – about 3-4 inches – then back fill them with my compost, ultimately covering them 1 inch deep. Mine are actually closer to 6-8 inches apart, but then again, I want to make sure my babies have room to grow and EXPAND.

back-fill-onion-sets-with-compost

Next, I set the gals upright and water well. Easy! Onions require a moderate amount of fertilizer in equal parts of N, P, K and medium water. Remember not to give them too much nitrogen, or you’ll end up with all leaves and no fruit. No good! Relatively few bugs prefer their pungent taste and smell which makes them all the easier to grow. Wunderbar!

set-onion-sets-upright

And they’re quite content next to their friends, broccoli.

Me? I’m quite content thinking about all the goodies I can make with delicious sweet onions. French Onion Soup, Onions Au Gratin, Baked and Savory Sweet Onions, Sautéed Cabbage and Onions–the list goes on!

Sweetest Tears You’ll Never Cry

Something about homegrown sweet onions doesn’t make you cry. You leap for joy, you eat your heart out, but you don’t cry–not when you’re cutting them you don’t. I only cry when I run out for the season!

fresh sweet onions

And they taste sweeter than any onion I’ve ever purchased from the store. Yep, they’re that good and very easy to grow. In fact, the only problem I can find with sweet onions is waiting for the harvest!

sweet onions almost ready

They don’t require a lot of attention or bug spray, only water, which is why I make a point to heavily mulch my onions. Makes sense when you consider their body is made up of mostly water. And when they’re ready, they’ll die back so you know when to harvest. More

Time to Plant Those Sw-eeeeet Onions!

Sweet onions are delicious when purchased from the store, but they are butter creamy delightful when pulled from your garden. You can eat them raw without the “bitter” taste, or sauté with to a sugary caramel glaze. How about baked onions? This recipe is easy and really brings out the flavor.

Baked Sweet Onions

Hmmm good! Best of all? They’re easy to grow. EASY. But they take time. Six months’ worth. But take it from me, these gems are worth the wait.

However, now is the time to plant. Contact your local seed store and see if they have the seed “sets” in stock. If not, maybe they can order some for you. The kids and I planted this row over the weekend. One hundred and twenty-four sweet baby onions! YUM! More

Got Onions?

And lots of them? Well, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering where and how you’re going to store them all. You see, my local seed store sells these sweets in bundles of 100. While it’s fun to plant 100 bulbs and harvest fresh sweet onions for your dining pleasure, 100 onions coming to maturity at one time is a lot. Once more, I planted the excess bulbs from our school garden, driving my total up to near 150.

“Hey, Trip–want some onions?”

“Sure.”  The neighbor friend grins and heads on over to pull a dozen for himself which leaves me with 138. 

A few nights of French onion soup will swallow up another dozen, a carmelized onion tart, sautéed onions for the burgers…an open invitation to the neighbors to pull to their heart’s content and well, I’ve only just broken the 100 point. Staring at my beauties resting quietly in their beds, I’m wondering, Who else would like some fresh onions?

my sweet onions

Gardeners do love to share but we don’t like to waste. So while sitting in my chiropractor’s office waiting for him to twist my back into shape, I got to talking with another patient and lo and behold, a fellow gardener! We do frequent the same places, don’t we? After a while, conversation drifted toward our abundance of harvest and upon learning of my onion dilemma, he shared an onion storage tip with me.  (You’re going to love this one!)  More

Spring Sweet Onion Harvest

Oh how I love this time of year!  After six long months of tending, weeding and waiting (the latter of which this gardener doesn’t do particularly well), my onion tops went brown and fell over so I duly dug these puppies up–gently.  Woohoo!  Someone ring the cow bell and dance the farmer’s jig–the sweet onions are ready!  And we have some doozies.  Big ones, round ones, small ones and–

What the heck?  Red ones?  I never planted any red ones.  How did these little pumpkins end up amidst my splendor of sweet white onions?

Hmph.  Told you those bags of seeds and plants you buy come stocked with all sorts of surprises.  Remember Tami’s blueberry/weed?  Well here’s the proof it can happen to anyone.  Red onions were mixed in my batch of onion sets.  Oh, well.  We humans are fallible, aren’t we?

I forgive them.  Besides, these look awfully tasty.  A bit of “Siamese Twins” growth going on, what with them joined at the bulb, but who cares?  I bet that won’t make one iota of difference once I chop them into salsa.  Or maybe I’ll cook them up with some of my black beans.  Mmm…

Yes, maybe it’s time for some black bean soup.  Those onions I don’t use right away I’ll store in my special covered onion basket or chop them up for the freezer.  I could always braid them to hang and store.  Looks kinda cool. 🙂  For best storage prep, lay your onions out for a sun bath (in Florida, you might want to do this under the shade of a tree).  Give them about a week to crisp their delicate papery skins.  Helps in lengthening storage time.

One year, a few of my onions began to flower.  Had I waited (remember, patience is not my strong suit), I could have learned the art of onion seed saving.  Though come to think of it, I didn’t have a lot of luck with the onion seeds I purchased and planted.  Should I really go to all the trouble of doing it myself?

Perhaps.  They are extra sweet when enjoyed fresh from the garden.  And barely a tear in the kitchen when it comes to slicing and dicing.  *sigh*  We’ll see.  Don’t count me out of the onion seed saving business yet.  There may be hope for me still… 🙂

I’ll keep you posted.  But until then, consider some sweet onions for your garden.  One fall day of planting makes for a lovely spring harvest.

Spring Harvest!

Now I realize many of you are still waiting for the ground to thaw and my heart goes out to you.  Truly, it does.  Here in Florida, we don’t even know what frozen tundra looks like!  No clue.  The kids have studied that kind of thing in class, but they don’t live it nor do they garden by it.

Okay, that’s a lie.  Jack Frost does nip our noses once in an ice crystal moon, but it’s rare.  Thank Goodness!  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be harvesting up a spring storm–squash, sweet onions, black beans, pole beans and soon to be potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and sunflowers!  Woohoo!  Are you jumping up and down with me?

Figured you were.  Gardening is plain old exciting, isn’t it?  Take a look at these harvest bunnies in action. 

You probably guessed these kindergarteners above are in charge of the pole bean harvest.  But what about these lower elementary students?  Can you tell what they’re after by looking at the plants?  Ask your kids.  Bet they can! 🙂  

Now most folks aren’t familiar with growing black beans and wouldn’t know how to determine when to pluck them.  Actually, it’s real easy.  Think “black bean” and you’ll know.

 

Isn’t that a gorgeous shade of purple-black?  I call it eggplant but most of the kids refer to it as purple.  Though some times these pods can fool you.  As the kids were shelling them, they learned this the hard way.

 

“How come mine is purple?”

“Why is mine blue?”

Because Mother Nature enjoys the mellow end of the rainbow?  Is wonderfully creative?  Likes to play tricks on gardeners?  Your guess is as good as mine, but if you ask me, I think these beans are beauties. 

And going to pull in a bunch of money!  You see, the students are harvesting beans and seeds for their first annual school fundraiser (of course we’ll only be selling the mature, black ones).  We’re talking total self-sustainability here,because not only do we plant the seeds and grow the plants, harvest the seeds and replant–we’re going to pay for all the gardening supplies that we need to do the job!  Gloves, tools, garden tape, fresh mulch and alas, those seeds we have to master harvesting. 

It’s not because we’re not near fabulous gardeners, but carrots take a couple of years to produce seeds.  Who has that kind of time?  And onions.  Those babies are tough to get started from seed and we’d just assume deal with the onion “sets” (onions in sprout form).  Besides, sweet onions take long enough as it is!  We planted ours in October.

So for our first annual seed selling fundraiser, we’ve harvested black beans, pole beans and squash (squash, courtesy of the middle school students) and will soon harvest the rest.  We also found a few friends along the way.  Some nice…

Some not so nice…

But we didn’t just harvest and “discover” this week–we ate.  Of course we did!  Sautéed squash and sweet onions was on the menu today.  Glazing the squash and caramelizing the onions enhances the sugary taste of this dish, perhaps even lends a cinnamon quality to it?  That was the reaction from our taste test!

You can find the recipe for this savory sweet delight in my recipe section.

In Full Bloom

The kids’ garden is in full bloom this week and looking quite gorgeous.  From cucumbers to potatoes, beans to sunflowers, we are growing awesome…

Do you recall when we “hilled”our potatoes?  That’s the process for drawing dirt and/or mulch up around your potato plant as it grows.

We do so because potato plants grow upward, forming new potatoes along the way.  If we don’t “hill” the plant, the top potatoes may be exposed to sunlight and turn green.  Not good.  Green potatoes can give you a belly ache (so don’t eat them!). 

With the warm weather we’ve been having in Florida (across the country for that matter), our potatoes have become a bit “leggy” — a.k.a. tall and spindly.  Just look how tall they are compared to these weed warriors—they’re almost 3 feet tall!

Which is fine.  They’ll still produce some beautiful potato babies.  Speaking of kids and potato babies, you can see what happens when the first batch becomes over-excited planting the second batch—we have stray potato plant sprouting in the middle of the walkway!  Sheesh.  We’ll leave it be.  It should still develop and deliver a wonderful bounty.

Unless of course these beasts get their way.  We found them devouring a few of our plants, but no worries!  One by one we plucked them off.

Our radish are roaring up and out of the ground.  The kids covered them with the hope it will give them more time to mature.

The same with our sweet onions.  They were popping up through the mulch!  (And weeds.) 

But since their tops are not falling over brown, we know they’re not quite ready to harvest, so we covered them up as a well, giving them a bit more time underground.

The tomatoes are bushy and beautiful.  We pinched the suckers to encourage better growth and fruit production.

 

We even spotted our first few tomatoes.  Can’t wait to harvest those plump ketchup-makers—or salsa, whichever we prefer!

 

And look!  Our first black beans are forming.  When these pods turn deep purple, we’ll know it’s time to harvest.

Speaking of harvest, don’t the corn and squash look incredible?  Ahhh….

We actually harvested quite a bounty of squash this week. Plan to eat some and save some—for our seed-saving-selling fundraiser next month, of course!

 

Look for more on how the kids plan to create and design their own seed packets next week. 🙂

Cooking up a Spring Harvest

I do love harvest time.  Not only do I find it more enjoyable than weeding (and a lot easier than tilling), it means it’s time to EAT!  And who doesn’t love to eat fresh veggies from the garden?

Nobody I know.  Especially when a basket full of potatoes and sweet onions are involved.  These are a mix of Yukon Gold, Red Cloud and a batch I planted from an organic potato purchase from my local grocery store. (Yes, you CAN do that–but don’t tell anyone I told you so.  Master gardeners tend to frown upon this sort of corner-cutting.)

Add a few sprigs of rosemary the herb garden, a little olive oil and next thing you know you have all the makings for an excellent side dish to dinner!  Roasted potatoes anyone? 

A bit of minced garlic would be the perfect mix-in for this dish.  Which I also just happened to harvest this weekend!

Very yummy.  And for those leftovers:  reheat them, crack an egg in a skillet and cook until it’s sunny side up, then scoop it over top of the potatoes for a hearty breakfast.  But whatever you do, don’t let the original chef know you squirted out a dollop of ketchup to go with them.  They were once a gourmet dinner side.

Like I said, for me, harvest is all about eating, though there is a “fun-factor” involved.  One of the students at school sent me a picture of her home garden harvest and there were more exclamation points in one paragraph than I have seen in quite some time! 

But can you blame her?  Look at the size of those zucchini!  Beans…and a tomato, too.  She’s AWESOME!

Harvest time is a wonderful time.  Especially in spring, because this is the only time I have fresh sweet onions and garlic–veritable staples in the Italian diet.  Remember:  I’m after the perfect sauce.  Just as soon as those tomatoes of mine are ready, I’m all over it!

P.S. For those of you reading this thinking I could never grow vegetables like those–think again.  If these black beans don’t prove it to you, I don’t know what will.  Sure, I put the cage around them–but only AFTER I noticed they were blooming completely on their own.

Roma tomatoes, too.  These babies are twice the size of my garden tomatoes.

So please, if my compost pile of dead leaves can grow these black beans and Roma tomatoes without a lick of help from me, than so can you.  Trust me.  Mother Nature WILL help you.  She wants you to grow and grow to your heart’s content!  (Less work for her.)

P.S.S. One more reason to start that compost pile!  As if you needed another…

Spring Bounty for the Kids

After all their hard work, the kids are sliding down the home stretch.  First they pulled their sweet onions and next week?

Potato mania!  The kids can’t wait to roast them with their leftover sweet onions and rosemary.  Mmmmm….  Until then, they had to maintain.  Let the weeding begin! 

Promising them a bit of the fluffiest-carrot-cake-ever ( the remainder of Monday’s post) proved an excellent motivator.  Totally unfair of me, I know–but totally effective!  Those weeds didn’t stand a chance against these guys!

While weeding, we noticed our black beans are forming pods.  When they darken to purple, that’s our sign to harvest.

We trained our cucumbers to climb the fence, as we expect a full wall of bounty come May.

And of course our tomatoes are gorgeous.  Something about the dirt on this school ground puts my home garden to shame.  Would you look at these?

Mine at home are not even half the size (and I loaned the kids some of MY tomato sprouts!).  Go figure.  At that, I’ll leave you with their black eye peas.

They too are flourishing.  Unfortunately, I don’t know too many recipes for fresh black eye peas which means I’ll have to rely on tradition.  Now if only I can find that ham hock I bought for New Year’s…

Replanting Beans

After our sorrowful discovery last week, the kids were back in the garden with their beans, albeit a new batch.  But that’s part of the lesson, isn’t it?  In real life, things don’t always work as planned.  Especially when your garden coordinator fails to watch the weather report!

Lucky for me, children are forgiving by nature and we spent little time crying over what could have been and proceeded to look forward to what can become!  (Is that grammatically correct?  Probably should check these things ahead of time when writing about students!)  Especially when your upper elementary kids come out to plant black eye peas.

However, in the business of gardening, scientific elements take center stage, not grammar, hence the assignment for upper elementary.  “Hey kids!  What’s the scientific abbreviation for Molybdenum?”

Would you believe they knew the answer?  I can hardly pronounce the word let alone rattle off its abbreviation!  But that’s why we’re in school, isn’t it?  To receive an education. 

Does it matter the adults learn, too?  I mean, my schooling was a long time ago.  And my brain quite full of important information…

Bet these kids don’t know that whites shouldn’t be mixed with darks in the laundry!  (Actually, many of them do.)  Back to the garden.  We planted black beans and limas this week, intermingling them for an intricate weave of color come spring.  And this time, the kids will be watching for the weather.  They have strict instructions to keep an eye on Mother Nature and inform their teacher at the first sign of temperature drop.

Who will then inform me, who will then promptly cover our little darlings in the garden.  See?  Problem solved.  We did notice our sweet onions popping through the soil.

Looking good, but they need to be covered, so the kids headed over to their compost pile.  Collecting the fresh organic matter we covered them and continue our wait.

Won’t be long now.  A few months and we’ll be in the salsa business!  Er–once we get some tomatoes in the garden.  But with another potential freeze on the horizon, I’m not yet willing to risk their introduction outdoors!