|Drying and Storing Onions||June 2011|
You've given your onions TLC all through the growing stage -- and you should continue to do so until they're ready to eat. Careful handling, along with proper drying and storing, are key to ensuring that your onions arrive on your table in "mint" condition. Here are some tips for onion management that will help preserve your harvest.
When you harvest, pull the onions in the morning and let them air dry until late afternoon; be sure to pick a day when rain isn't forecast, and don't leave them out so long that dew falls on them. Move them into shade on hot, bright days; you can even hang them in small bunches, braiding and tying the tops together with string.
If you dry your onions indoors, be sure to spread them out in a well-ventilated area with plenty of room for airflow between the onions. Drying indoors may take longer than outdoor drying, but 2-3 weeks is usually sufficient with full circulation. The drying process is complete when the neck is tight, the outer skin is dry and makes a rustling sound when handled, and the skin color is uniform. Don't remove the thin, dried outer skins of the onions, as they help maximize storage length.
Once the onions are dry, cut the tops down to 1-2 inches long, and store them in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation; the use of fans is a good idea, because they help keep the onions dry, which in turn retards decay. The onions shouldn't be closer than a foot away from the walls, because you need to maintain good airflow.
Never store onions with potatoes (they emit moisture) or put them in plastic bags (lack of air circulation reduces shelf life). When properly dried, some onions can keep as long as mid-winter, but be sure to check your onions regularly and discard any that have gone soft or begun to rot.
Separating Damaged Onions
Some onion storage diseases are caused by weather extremes, and don't become evident until during the storage process. There are no fungicides that you can use to treat post-harvest issues in onions, but there are steps you can take to prevent some storage problems. See our Q&A section below for information on post-harvest diseases.
These pointers should help you dry and store your onions properly, so you can enjoy them well into the off season!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
Product of the Month
Here's a dandy product that many onion growers forget about, but it makes the job a whole lot easier. This set of onion shears is the same type of tool that professional onion field workers (including ours) use to snip the tops and bottoms off mature bulbs after they're harvested and field-dried. Each of our workers has to process 5,000 pounds of onions or more during the season, so you know they require a solid, durable, ergonomic tool. While you probably don't have as many onions to worry about, these steel shears make processing your onions a snap (literally!), helping to ensure a quick, bountiful harvest.
|June 2011 Photo Contest Winners!|
The first winners of the 2011 Dixondale Photo Contest are Donald and Arlene Waguespack of Lake Arthur, Louisiana. The onions they're holding are Contessas, one of our excellent white short day varieties. The Waguespacks were also featured this past season in the catalog on page 3, for their Hybrid Southern Belle Red onions.
What a great picture of them and the onions! Their contest prizes (snazzy Dixondale T-shirts and caps) are on the way.
| Around The Farm|End of the Season
Well, here we are again: we're closing out the onion season for 2011. All our onions have been shipped and cleared from the fields. With the high temperatures down here in South Texas in May and June, we feel that we've already had a taste of the summer -- and with the higher temperatures, our cantaloupe season has hit us a couple of weeks earlier than usual. For the next few weeks, we'll be picking, packing, and shipping our top-quality Carrizo Cantaloupes...and a bit later in the summer, if we're lucky, we might have a little breathing room before we get started on next year's onion crop!
|Cooking With Onions|
- 4 large russet potatoes, cleaned
- 2 white onions, peeled and cut into wedges
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut each potato into fourths and place it onto a large enough piece of aluminum foil to completely enwrap it. Scatter the onion wedges around and on the top of the potatoes, then place one tablespoon of butter, cut into pieces, over the onions and evenly cover the onions and potatoes with the herbs, salt and pepper. Seal each packet tightly, then wrap each potato in another square of foil. Grill them over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
This recipe comes to us courtesy of the National Onion Association. Onions can enhance so many dishes, and can be consumed raw, fried, sautéed or baked. Please send us your favorite onion recipe, so we can share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can email it to us here. Digital photos of your dish are also welcome!
Q&A: Storage Disease Prevention
Q. How can I prevent storage diseases in my onions, and how do I identify damaged onions to be discarded?
A. Your best bet is to ensure good crop hygiene:
Here's a rogue's gallery of storage diseases you need to be aware of, so you can discard affected onions immediately.
- Make sure plants are properly spaced, and not overcrowded.
- Don't plant onions in the same place you did last year.
- Be diligent about insect and disease control during the growing season.
- Handle bulbs very carefully during harvest and storage.
- Don't store bulbs that are bruised, cut, diseased, or with green tops or thick necks.
- Dispose of crop residues at the end of the season.
- Don't leave harvested onions out in the field during wet weather.
Blue-green mold is caused by excess moisture before harvest. The dusty green spores often appear when storage conditions are damp.
Black mold presents as sooty black spore masses. It enters through cuts or breaks in the skin or tops. High humidity and temperatures over 85º F promote its growth, and excess moisture in storage encourages its spread. Black mold lives on dead plant material as well as in the soil, so it's vital to clean up the garden at the end of the season.
Neck rot is caused by a fungus carried on the onion seed. The first signs appear 8-10 weeks into storage, when gray spore masses and sclerota, black patches up to an inch across, appear on the onion's surface. This soon develops into a soft brown rot that moves into the bulb. The only way to avoid neck rot is to treat the seed itself with the right fungicide.
Fusarium rot (basal rot) is caused by excessive heat during the growing phase. It starts at the base of the onion in heat exceeding about 80º F, and proceeds into the bulb as a watery rot and bacterial decay. It usually effects just a few onions, but can pass between onions in storage.
Bacterial rots can strike when the temperature exceeds about 85º F. They can be hard to recognize from the surface, because the onions may look sound; but when cut open, the inner rings will be brown and watery. Infected onions rot quickly, and have a pungent scent.
|Fun Onion Myths|
In this section, we usually include interesting facts about onions -- but this time, we thought we'd debunk a few fun myths! So here are some things that people have actually believed at one time or another about onions. Remember, none of these are actually true!
Speaking of myths: according to Turkish legend, when Satan was thrown out of Heaven, onions and garlic grew wherever he stepped. Oddly enough, onions and garlic both are prized in Turkish cuisine, so apparently this is a case of finding the silver lining in a dark cloud!
- If you rub a cut onion on your bald head, the hair will come back "thick as thistles."
- If a girl writes the names of her suitors on individual onions and puts those onions in a dark place, the first one that sprouts will name her future husband.
- Onions can cure headaches and are good for coughs.
- Onions can act as an aphrodisiac.
- Roman gladiators used to rub themselves with onions to firm up their muscles. (No word on whether it kept the lions away.)
- The ancient Egyptians believed onions could bring breath back to mummies.
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