Some things in the garden cause tearsThere are very few things in the garden that can make one break down into tears, however, cut into a fresh-grown onion and you will feel differently.
By: John Zvirovski, The Jamestown Sun
There are very few things in the garden that can make one break down into tears, however, cut into a fresh-grown onion and you will feel differently.
Onions are part of the very large family of alliums. We are most familiar with alliums as the purple -blooming globe flower that blooms in spring, but the onion is the most commonly planted vegetable in that family.
Chives are also from the same family and are frequently in cooking.
Onions come in three main types, the yellow, white and red. They are easiest identified by their outer skin colors, even though their inner flesh has a tint of the same color.
Yellow onions are the most common of the group and are known for their pungent scent and flavor. Often used in cooking, they sauté into a beautiful golden brown and are commonly used in making French onion soup. Common varieties of this selection would be Savannah Sweet, Walla Walla, Ailsa Craig, Spanish and Yellow Ebenezer.
White onions have a sweeter flavor when cooked and have been used frequently in Mexican cuisine, have a pure white skin and inner flesh. This is also the variety that is used for dehydrating when used in cooking as flakes and is found in the spice sections. Common varieties of this selection Sierra Blanca, Bermuda, White Crystal Wax and Portugal White.
Red onions are used often for fresh slicing, salads, and sandwiches for their sweet, but mild flavors. As a lover of onions, this is my favorite of the selections as it is great for just eating raw. Some of the varieties of this selection would be Red Wing, Red Candy Apple and Red Zeppelin. Many will notice this is the variety you see in salad bars and on burgers when ordering at a restaurant.
Even though cooking with onions is the most common practice, they are used as side dishes also. Onions can be sautéed to eat with meats like steaks and liver, deep fried as an appetizer to make delicious onion rings, pickled for a cool and sour snack, or dehydrated for use at a later date. They are used in cooking with most meals to some level, whether used fresh or as a dehydrated flake, salt or powder.
Onions are planted as a root vegetable in early spring. Although they can be started from seed, since they require a long growing season, many people plant sets in our region.
Sets are plants that are already started and are sold in bunches. These are planted an inch into the ground about a foot apart to allow for the bulbs to grow. When the daylight hours surpass 12 hours a day, the onion is spurred into bulb formation. Some of the longer season onions take a minimum of 15 daylight hours to promote bulb growth.
Cool weather is best for bulb growth as hot conditions may promote the plant going to seed quicker and losing the energy for root and bulb development. They prefer full sunlight and a well-drained soil that is never wet for long periods of time.
When mature, onion bulbs can grow into the size of a tennis ball to as large as a softball. When the onions are reaching their maturity in the garden, bend the green tops flat to the ground to encourage the bulb to cure and halt the growing process before harvesting. Although onions can be harvested and used throughout the growing season, many people like to store them after harvest also to use in the late fall and winter months.
When pulling the onions from the garden, lay them out in the sun to encourage them to dry. Leave the green tops on until they have dried completely. Trim the dried stem off about an inch from the top of the onion bulb. If there is any green in the stem of the onion, allow it to dry further until the bulb top has completely sealed. If you move them into storage before this happens, spoilage will occur at a faster rate.
Once dried, either braid the uncut dried ends together to hang from the rafters or store in a mesh bag and hang to allow for good air circulation. When storing, make sure the location is cool, dark and dry. With these conditions and a completely dried onion, your storage time will be greatly elongated for use into winter.
And why is it that we tend to cry when we cut into an onion? Well, the short story is when you cut into an onion it causes damage of the cells that creates a gas to be produced. This gas quickly disperses into the air and is an irritant to the eyes.
This reaction causes your tear ducts to produce tears in order to flush the irritant from your eyes. One way to cut down on this gas is to cut the onions under running water or to chill your onions ahead of time. Another helpful tip is to avoid cutting the root end of the onion until last as this is the area of the onion bulb that produces the highest level of irritants.
If you find yourself crying in the garden, it may just be the onions. If you are crying in the garden for any other reason, you are in the right place to cure what is bothering you. Take a breath, slow down, and enjoy every unique element of your garden, and you will find yourself back into the peaceful place you are seeking and soon the tears will fade away.