"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harvesting Onions

As summer winds down and it's lush green begins to fade into the dappled colors of Autumn we begin in earnest to harvest some of our crops before the nights become too cold and damp. This week we pulled our onions, the majority of which were planted from seed. In comparison to my bolting set onions July 22nd Garden Pictures the transplanted seedlings went on to perform extremely well this year despite their shady location amidst the volunteer sunflowers.

All but a handful of the Yellow of Parma, Borettana, Candy, Yellow Globe, Red Globe, and very productive Jaune Paille Des Vertus grew from seed into fine little onions that are sure to keep us teary eyed all winter long.

Oblate little Borettana onions

About two weeks after the onion tops fell into a brown stupor and before the bulbs began to rot in the damp garden soil we had the good fortune of pulling onions by the wheelbarrow load. There are always a few tiny bulbs that did not manage to mature, those are left behind to overwinter and provide some of next year's first spring greens. Once pulled, the onions are laid out on our porch to dry and cure for about a month. After they are fully cured we will put them into shallow baskets and store them in a cool dry back room. We always separate and use the thick necked bulbs (mostly our set onions) first as they never keep as long.

Every single meal we eat is homemade, so on average we use approximately two medium onions every day...that's a lot of onions! If they are even close to being as healthy as I made them out to be in a previous post Health By Allium we certainly should be reaping a plethora of nutritional benefits.

Nice round Candy onions↓

Once pulled, a small portion of the onion's plot quickly became home to a late planting of various cold hearty greens such as arugula, red mustard, Winter Density Romain, Tango, and Red Tinged Winter lettuces. These greens should help provide for us well into December at which point extremely hardy kale, turnip, and other winter greens will see us through until spring.


Stefaneener said...

Yay!! I just ordered onion seed and I'll be happy if I get anything like a vigorous harvest like that.

Eric used to walk in every single time I was sauteeing onions and garlic, and say, "That smells good. What is it?" Every. Single. Time. He hasn't done it for a while; maybe he's learned.

Ruralrose said...

This is the best blog on the net. You should write a book. I started shallots for the first time this year as onions don't have time to finish for me. The last seed I bought had leeks in it too. I wish what you share could be taught in schools what a world we could grow. Thanks for the post - peace for all

Amy said...

I am passing a Meme Award on to you. Thanks for sharing your garden!

granny said...

I have never seen so many onions in my life!!! Great harvest Mr H.Thankyou for the dehydrator info ,very helpful :0)I have to agree with ruralrose...a book would be great! A doco would be even better!!....

Soilman said...

Wow, that's a VAST onion harvest. I'm totally impressed!

Roasted Garlicious said...

thats a LOT of onions Mr. H... mmmm yummy!! and i agree with what Ruralrose said... you should!!!

Chiot's Run said...

MMM, onions. I wish I could grow onions like that, mine are so small and pathetic. Perhaps the lack of light, or the bad soil? Eventually I'll be able to grow some onions like yours.

Mama JJ said...

That's a lot of onions! I didn't plant nearly enough, but I'm promising myself I'll do a lot more next year...

Jo said...

Yowza. Your onion harvest looks magnificent. How long do yours manage to stay good in storage? I put mine in mesh bags and hang them from the basement ceiling. But they never last through the entire winter. Thanks for the tip about eating the thick-neck ones first.

Mr. H. said...

Stefaneener - It just takes time, my wife is still working on getting me trained properly. I'm getting better though...I think.:)

Ruralrose - Thanks so much. I agree with you, everyone should learn the basic concept of how to feed yourself. We rely way to heavily on others for our food stuffs.

I think you will like the shallots, they are much more adaptable than onions.

Amy - I really appreciate the thought but will have to pass on the award as I don't take part in the giving or receiving of awards for various reasons...but thanks nonetheless.

Granny - We did end up with a lot of onions, believe me they don't always turn out so well.

I just filled my dryer up with tomatoes to run through the night and we have been drying loads of raspberry fruit leather on the barn roof the last couple days.

I am hoping to take another commenter's advice and get some partially dried tomatoes up on the roof tomorrow as well.

Soilman - Thanks, I'm impressed with your last video. You really are quite good at making them.

Roasted Garlicious - Have I ever told you how much I like your blog name, I can't think of better description for garlic.

Yes indeed, we are setting pretty with both onions and garlic this year.:)

Susy - Honestly, we struggle some years with the onions as well. Last year the weather damaged them, this year the set onions that should have done well were in too sunny of a location and the heat caused many of them to bolt. All the rest did well because they were on the shady side of the garden.

Because it is so hard to tell what the weather or conditions will be like in any given year I have started planting certain crops in a variety of locations. That has really helped a lot.

I highly recomend the Borettanna, and Jaune Paille Des Vertus grown from seed. They are smaller onions and do much better for us. I think we both share the same day length as far as onion growing goes.

Mama JJ - I say that every year and finally did indeed plant what I assume will be more than enough.

Jo - A defect free onion kept at around 35-55°should keep 8 or 9 months, maybe more. Ours usually make it that long if we can keep the humidity and temperature down. Luckily, as we heat our house with wood humidity is not an issue.

LynnS said...

Great onion harvest for you! Kudos to The Onion King & Queen!!

I've only tried sets once -- seemed like cheating. Plus, they're expensive! lol

I'm with you on the benefits of the alliums. And aside from the nutritients, what's a meal without all that flavor?!

I concur with Ruralrose about this blog being the best on the 'net. This is my favorite blog -- you actually live your ideals. (But please don't write a book -- you'd be owned elsewhere, not free, and we would all wither without your daily feed here.)

wendy said...

Awesome onions!

Now that I have found you I sure hope that you'll continue to blog into the winter about those greens you mentioned...I'm hoping to grow greens through part of the winter this year myself and sure would love some tips.

Thanks for blogging so well!

It's me ...Mavis said...

At first glance I thought this was a CRAZY amount of onions....then I thought about all the canning....all the tomato sauce, all the breakfasts with sausage, zucchini and onions....I thought I was crazy to plant 360 onion bulbs last fall.....but I had gone thru about 1/2 of them (green onions) by early spring...and I ran out of onions just as tomato season approached this summer....so a good lesson learned...you can never plant enough onions...and if you do...you can always barter with someone for something you are lacking. Good post and pictures!

E said...

very impressive!
cut worms got most of the few onions I sowed this year, so I'm buying mine from a local grower.

That bed looks good enough to fall asleep in....

Mr. H. said...

Thanks Lynn,

Don't worry, this blog is a big enough tax on my limited writing skills, and I would certainly wither away as well without everyone else's fine blogs to keep me company. Besides, I still have to devote some time towards mastering the purl stitch.:)

The one nice thing about set onions is that we usually get a usable bulb way before the seeded onions are ready. But, we are lucky to have a local feed store that sells them a a very reasonable price.

Mr. H. said...

Hello Wendy,

Thanks for stopping by.

I am sure that I will be discussing winter greens as fall and winter looms closer.

Check out my February 7, 2009 post "Our Winter Garden" for a list of what we grow in the cold months. Also November 9, 2008 "Winter Greens" and January 10, 2009 "There Is Nothing Like Salad Fresh Out Of The Garden In January"


Mr. H. said...


It's amazing how many onions a person can go through, It took us a couple years to get the amount right. But I'll tell you what, there is nothing better than having your own fesh onions in the middle of winter and not having to depend upon the local grocer for them.

Mr. H. said...

Hi E,

We have been lucky so far and not had any real problems with cut worms or anything else bothering our onions.

That bed should provide a most comfortable resting place for my lettuces.:)


Silke said...

Oh, your onions look amazing! I had to show Daniel how you harvest by the wheel barrow full! :) I was just thinking how nice it is to live somewhere where sweet onions are available year-round. I love those! We grew shallots this year, which did wonderfully for us. We'll have to do that again and maybe add another onion type. What a fantastic harvest you are having this year!!! :) Silke

Mr. H. said...


I am becoming a big fan of shallots, they are so versatile. Pretty soon we will be planting our seed shallots back into the garden, so we can get extra big ones next year.

We are having another great year, but even our bad years are great because we get to do what we love.

daylesford organics said...

What a fantastic crop! Over here on the other side of the world in Southern Australia we are preparing to put ours in the ground. We have planted 8 varieties of seeds in the hothouse and are now waiting for the ground to dry out enough to do some tractor work before we pop them in. We eat heaps as well and only ever eat our own as bought ones cannot compare.

Mr. H. said...

daylesford organics,

Thank you! I guess your season is just beginning as ours is coming to a close. It is so very nice to be able to have ones own produce on hand, fresh and available whenever you want it. No store bought ones for us either.


el said...

Oh okay Mike NOW you've made me cry. It's been a lousy onion year so I don't even have ONE wheelbarrow load to store. SO sad. (Leeks, shallots, multipliers, scallions, yes, but they're not the same.)

But every dinner at this house, just like Stefaneener's, starts with a chopped onion. Onions are terribly important. And I will have to buy some! Sniff!

Mr. H. said...


It seems that, in my garden anyway, a bad year for one crop is usually followed by a good one the next season. Usually because I throw my self into making it happen like I did with onions and tomatoes this year.

We had to buy a few onions last year and quite a few peppers...I can't begin to tell you how much I absolutely hate buying produce from the grocery store. Mostly because I don't know how it was grown...GMO, E. coli, dirty handlers at the store, etc. We decided to try going without whatever we think we need at the store this year (usually March & April) unless we see really good deals on organic produce for the chickens. They always mark down organic carrots for some reason and the birds just love them grated.

Onions though, that would be tough. Lucky for me I will have quite a selection of shallots and walking onions to work with in a couple years thanks in part to you. All of the baby Egyptians have begun to grow.:)

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