Friday, January 16, 2009

How Many Onions?

To answer Paula's question from a previous post, we always order two bunches of 5 dozen onion set plants and usually harvest well over 100 onions each year. That works out to about two a week, or one onion per person per week. We tend to use onions (and garlic!) in almost everything we cook, so if you don't then you'll want to order fewer onions and remember not to accept dinner invitations from us.

All of them fit in the new bed in the photo. Although some of them get as big as the ones in the store, most of them are a little smaller--about the size of lemons--and some even smaller. Onions are heavy feeders and being organic we don't use commercial fertilizers, so this may account for their smaller size. As our beds get more enriched each passing year with our chicken manure compost I expect we will start seeing bigger onions.

Perhaps another Healthy Harvester would like to split a collection with you?

One of the advantages of buying three colors of onions--besides color and flavor--is how long they keep. Because of their sugar content sweet onions don't keep long before they start going mushy or sprouting. Most of the short day collections have a sweet yellow, so after harvest we try to use these up first. The reds tend to keep the longest.

You'll want to make sure your onion bed is well-drained because they don't like wet feet. We lost all our onion and garlic plants two summers ago when it never stopped raining and they were in raised beds.

Another thing to consider is you can always plant some closer together and use them sooner as "green onions". Generally, we plant them 4" apart and let them grow to the size they choose. You will know when it's time to harvest because the tops turn yellow and fall over.

Literature--obviously outdated-- once recommended you store them in pantyhose with knots tied between them, hung in a dark place. I don't know about you, but I don't have much opportunity to wear pantyhose these days. If I still have any they are probably tied in knots in the dark recesses of my closet, sans onions.

Last year we purchased tulle (bridal netting) for 35 cents a yard at a fabric store and wrapped them in their own little bridal gowns secured with tiny rubber bands from the little girls' hair section of the grocery store and stacked them in an old wire milk basket. This year we discovered Dixondale conveniently sells netting tubes at a reasonable price and opted for them instead. I'll report next year on how well they worked.


  1. Thanks for the advice. I used to put onions in everything I cooked, but have really cut back the last year or so because of price!

    I was more worried about space than using them up.

    I also didn't know that yellow onions don't last as long. I love 1015's!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I've read that 1015's are supposed keep longer than other short day onions, but based on our experience they must be talking about compared to other sweet yellow short day onions not to short day onions in general.

    To release the sugars in any onion you just need to chop and saute them oil (we use olive oil)very slowly over low low heat, past their translucency stage, being careful not to burn them. Some cookbooks call this process 'carmelizing' the onions.