Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Second Year Onions

I don't know much about onions, but I do know that they really aren't supposed to be biennial.  Nonetheless, as you might remember, last year I pitched a gardener's fit when most of my onion starts declined to...well, start!  I dug up the entire crop and got only a few paltry small onions, and a whole bunch of onion sets that looked almost exactly the same as they did when I put them in the ground four months prior, even though they had given me lovely onion tops that had browned and died, supposedly the signal for mature onions.  I threw them all back in the field, mulched over them, and left them for the winter.

So, they started to grow by March, and I have been harvesting medium sized mature onions since almost the beginning of the summer season.  I thought you might like a look at these oddities.

As you can see, each onion I pull really looks like two entities.  On the right is a hard stalk that comes down next to an onion bulb.  The stalk is very woody, but it is very onion-y.  If you are cooking something for several hours, like a stew, these have no problem softening up.  However, I have been taking the easy way out and just throwing the "bulb" part of them into the stock bucket in the freezer.  If I don't wind up with more meat bones and chicken gizzards soon, I'll be making onion stock rather than meat stock!

On the left, you see an onion bulb.  It looks and tastes just like any other "normal" onion, except it has a smaller hard stalk or core inside.  I pop that core out and send it to compost, then dice up my onion as usual.  The onions are sweet and tender, and you would have no idea their rather circuitous path into the world.

Lesson?  It just goes to show that gardening isn't always predictable.  We can read almanacs; calculate germination rates; buy heating pads and potting mix; and chart the phases of the moon, but sometimes you plant things and they don't work.  Or they work in unexpected ways.  But every little bit helps, and the randomness is part of the fun.  I'll be chuckling all summer as I cruise past the onions in the store and back home to my odd little second year onions.
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