April in National Poetry Month
Growing onions takes very little space. Plant in containers or tuck into empty spaces between other vegetables.
The raised beds are ready and waiting to be planted. About half the onions are already in the garden.
The garlic planted last fall is thriving. Early bird chives have been up for a couple of weeks. The leeks and sweet onions are just waiting for me to work the soil and plant.
Ode To The Onion
by Pablo Neruda
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
clear as a planet
round rose of water,
of the poor.
You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
of the snowy anemone
and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.
When little onion starts arrive in the mail, they don’t look very promising.
Plant. It’s onion planting time. Onion starts and onion sets are at the garden centers now. Plant them 1″ deep and too close, thinning them out to use as green onions, spacing about 4″ apart. Choose a full sun area with well-worked soil.
Spacing depends on the variety of onion. Generally, planting to 3″ – 4″ inches apart for green onions and thinning to at least 5-6 inches apart for large bulbing onions. Proper spacing will affect the size of the mature onion.
Weed and water. Onions have every shallow roots, so don’t let them dry out. Keep onion patch weeded. Do not make them compete for nutrients in the soil with weeds. When the onion tops start falling over, stop watering. Allow the soil to dry and more of the tops fall over.
Harvest. Wait for most of the onions to fall over. You can bend the stems of any remaining upright plants, signaling the plants to enter dormancy.
At this point, stop watering and leave the onions in the ground for 7 to 14 days (depending on how dry or humid your climate is) to allow them to fully mature.
Pull onions in the morning and leave them laying on the ground to dry for a day or two.
Cure. How long your onions will keep depends on this critical step and how you handle them after harvest.
Spread the onions out in a single layer. Choose a shady spot or a covered porch. I use an open garage with good ventilation. Do not clean off the onions.
Turning the onions every few days, this curing process will two to three weeks. A shaded area with good air circulation is very important. The stems and roots must be completely dry.
The papery outer skins will tighten around the bulbs and a few layers of the dried onion skins will fall off when removing the stems. Clip off the roots and stems.
Sweeter onions won’t store as long as stronger onions. Use the sweeter onions first. Store onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area in mesh bags or netting to permit airflow.
My Favorite red onion recipe.
The red onions turn pink and are quick to make. Great with sandwiches or in potato salad. Keep a jar of them in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Pickled Red Onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 cups of white vinegar
herb sprigs or peppercorns (optional)
Slice 2 or 3 medium size red onions in 1/4” slices.
In a small sauce pan, add sugar, salt and vinegar. Heat and stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add onion slices. Heat through and cook for 1 minute.
Add a sprig of herbs or a few peppercorns to the bottom of each container or jar.
Pack onions into pint canning jars or a container with tightly covered lid.
Pour vinegar over onions to completely cover the onions. Close the jars or containers and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Keeps up to three weeks in refrigerator.
Suggested herbs: oregano, dill, small nasturtium leaves.