|Harvesting, Drying, and Storage Tips ||June 2012|
We hope you're well, and that you're enjoying nurturing your onion plants. We want to help you in every way we can, so here are some tips to determine when your onions are ready for harvest, as well as a review of proper drying methods and the best ways to store your onions.
When To Harvest
An onion is fully mature when the top falls over naturally. You don't have to delay your harvest until every last one falls over, but harvesting early may cause an onion to sprout during storage because it wasn't allowed to complete the bulbing process.
Once the tops have fallen over, pull the onions out of the ground and let them dry in the open air for about two days. Be sure to bring them into a sheltered area if it becomes damp or starts raining, as moisture will damage them at this stage.
The Drying Process
If you dry your onions in the field, it's a good idea to lay out the onions in windrows, covering the bulb of one with the top of another to prevent sunscald. This is known as "shingling." On especially hot, bright days, move them into the shade to avoid scalding. You can even hang them in small bunches, after 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 them 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 roots are dry and wiry, the outer skin is dry and makes a rustling sound when handled, and the skin color is uniform. Now they're ready to store.
Clip off the roots and cut the tops down to 1-2 inches long. But keep the thin, dried outer skins on the onions, as they help maximize storage length. Store the onions in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation. A fan set on low will keep them dry, which in turn will retard 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, which emit moisture, or put them in plastic bags; the lack of air circulation reduces shelf life. Mesh bags and old pantyhose make good storage options. When properly dried, some onions can keep as long as mid-winter.
Be sure to check your onions regularly and immediately discard any that have gone soft or begun to rot. Never let a decaying or diseased onion touch another, since the process will spread. One bad onion really will spoil the whole batch.
Preventing Storage Diseases
Some onion storage diseases are the result of pre-harvest conditions, such as weather extremes or pest control problems. There are no fungicides that you can use to treat post-harvest issues in onions, which is why it's important to take preventative measures:
- Plant in areas with good drainage.
- Use pre-emergent herbicides.
- Rotate crops every few years.
- Make sure your plants are properly spaced, and not overcrowded.
- Handle bulbs very carefully during harvest and storage.
- Don't store bulbs that are bruised, cut, diseased, or have green tops or thick necks.
- Dispose of crop residues at the end of the season.
We hope you find these tips helpful, and wish you a bountiful harvest!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
P.S. We've finished shipping onion and leek plants for the 2012 season. All good things must come to an end, but we really appreciate our loyal customers -- and we'll always be here for technical advice. Of course, we'll continue to ship fertilizers, growing aids, and harvest aids all year!
Product of the Month
If you grow onions in quantity, like so many of our customers do, you'll need some good storage options -- especially if you're planning to sell your onions. Our storage bags are ideal.
These orange mesh bags not only provide the ventilation your onions need, they're light and strong as well. They're available in three sizes, all ideal for farmers markets and gift bags, with the 10 and 50 pound sizes recommended for larger producers:
You can purchase our storage bags individually or in bulk. Normally they're $2.50 each, but if you buy ten or more, they're $2.00 each.
From Our Friends
Red and White
Here's James Coffelt of Michigan showing off part of his 2011 crop of huge red Mars and white Sterling onions, grown from Dixondale starters. Excellent onions, James!
Got some onion-related photos to share? Send them to us here, and you just might see your photo in a future newsletter!
|Around The Farm|Remembering a Special Customer
This touching tale comes to us from Kim Kuper of South Dakota:
"I have a short story to tell about a longtime customer of yours, my father-in-law, Lowell Kuper. He was a loyal fan of Dixondale Farms, and produced some mighty fine onions from your starters. About two years ago my husband, Rod, ordered him a Dixondale Farms hat for Christmas. He proudly took off the one he had, bent the new one the way he needed it, and wore it every day!
"The last two months of his life, Lowell was very sick -- old and tired and ready to go. But he was always, ALWAYS wearing the Dixondale hat. In the nursing home last week, he didn't really recognize anyone and needed the staff to turn him. He was going down fast, but still wore the hat 24/7.
"Today we buried him, still with his Dixondale hat and his seed catalogs right next to him in his casket. Something as simple as a hat and some onions brought this man so much happiness, and his family many great memories. Thank you for what you do!"
Thank you so much, Kim, for telling us about Lowell. Our sympathies are with you and Rod for your loss. Thank you, too, Lowell. We're glad we could make you happy.
|Cooking With Onions|
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
- 2 large zucchinis, sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces cooked penne pasta
- 1 8-ounce container basil pesto sauce
- 1 cup shredded Italian cheeses
In a large skillet, caramelize the onions by cooking them on medium low heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Add red and green bell peppers, zucchini, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the onions. Continue to sauté about 8-10 minutes, until the peppers and zucchini are tender.
Meanwhile, cook 8 ounces of penne pasta in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender; drain. Return hot pasta to pan; add vegetables and basil pesto sauce. Gently toss ingredients together to coat. Heat through for 5-10 minutes. Lightly mix in the shredded Italian cheeses and serve. Makes 6 servings.This month's recipe is 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: Selling at Farmers Markets
Q. What resources are available to help me sell my onions at farmers markets?
A. The USDA maintains a searchable, comprehensive list of U.S. farmers markets through its Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The list is constantly updated, and contains thousands of entries. The AMS also administers the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), which offers grant opportunities intended to improve and expand domestic farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and similar venues. Don't hesitate to apply if you think you may meet the FMPP's qualifications.
The independent organization Local Harvest also maintains a directory of farmers markets here.
We commend efforts to sell onions and other agricultural products through farmers markets. Doing so helps strengthen the local economy, reduces unnecessary fuel costs, and ensures the freshest possible food. We wish you the very best of luck!
|Fun Onion Facts: Some Myths Dispelled|
This month, we take a look at the four most common myths about onion plants.
Myth 1: You should "heel" the plants in wet soil until you're ready to plant. Actually, quite the opposite: leave them in a cool, dry place. Each plant has a certain amount of carbohydrates stored in the bulb; if you water them prior to planting, you dilute the solid fiber and replace it with water. That could make the plant have a tougher time taking hold.
Myth 2: The roots are too short. The truth is, the length of the roots only indicates one thing: the last time the onion plants got any type of irrigation. Shorter, dry roots are the most desirable, since that means that the plant's makeup is of more solid fiber and less water. The first thing that an onion does when planted is shoot out new roots; the ones you see will die off.
Myth 3: Pinch the seed pod off if the onion goes to seed. Years ago, this was a common practice among onion growers, since they had plenty of labor and varieties that were prone to bolting. But if you pinch the seed pod off immediately and let the onion go, the core of the onion won't get as large. You'll end up with an onion that won't store well and has a "piffy" tasting center. Pull the bolting onion instead, and eat it right away.
Myth 4: Knock the tops over to make larger bulbs. The opposite is true. You can force the tops over to accelerate maturity, but once that top is knocked over, the flow of carbohydrates get "pinched" from leaf to bulb, cutting down on bulb size. Some farmers may knock them over early to accelerate maturity for market reasons, or to limit the bulb size.
All Your Questions Answered
We have answers to your frequently asked questions! Just click here for information on when to order your onions, as well as for tips on planting, caring, feeding, harvesting, and storing them.
|Join Us On Facebook! |
Join the community of friends and growers on our Facebook page! You can connect with us and fellow growers to share stories, recipes, and even weather information and other tips. We encourage you to add your pictures and growing stories, and to leave something on our Wall.
By the way, don't forget to share your onion recipes with us here -- and regularly review the posts from your fellow onion growers, to find some new recipes to try!
We've been posting quite a few videos on Facebook, too. Be sure to check 'em out