Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Hands Still Smell Like Onions!

Even after washing them several times using the time-honored method of scrubbing a stainless steel spoon with dish detergent, my hands still smell like onions.

What do you do to get that smell off your hands?

The onions came from my garden of course. Earlier this season we had pulled a few for green onions on pizza and they were very mild.  The ones I cut up yesterday were a bit bigger and brought some serious tears to my eyes as I chopped. I found them in the garden with their tops laying in a dead faint on the ground. After a quick ‘google’ search, I discovered that it was normal for onions to do this when they are ‘done.’ So I pulled up a bunch of them (a bunch as in 8 or 10) that were just laying there and left them out to dry before preparing them for storage.

Storing onions can be tricky business. I am embarrassed to say that more than once I have wound up with a net bag full of green stems and smooshy bulbs. Unpleasant, to say the least. The reason my onions sprouted is because they were kept in a place that was either way too warm or way too humid. That place was my kitchen counter or my refrigerator. 

First, I figured since the onions at the grocery store were just sitting out there in the middle of the room under no special storage conditions, mine would be fine on the countertop.


Then I started keeping them in the fridge and that worked for awhile since we use quite a few onions at our house. Then, one day as I was clearing out the fridge looking for the source of that gawdawful odor, I discovered a sprouting, smooshy onion way back in the bottom drawer.

Ew. Who knew the fridge was a humid place? Not me.

Onions, it turns out, need low humidity, cool temperatures and darkness with good ventilation for good storage. Also, it pays to notice what variety of onion you’re working with. The later maturing types will often do better in storage than the early varieties.

So, in order to store your onions for winter use:
1.     Harvest onions when the leaves of more than half the plants are laying on the ground.  I take only the ones that have fallen over and leave the ones that are still standing up until they fall over.  I’m in no hurry to pluck them all up and, don’t quote me, but I’ve heard that a light frost in the fall will make them sweeter.
2.     Pull them carefully and leave the stems and leaves intact.
3.     Dry in a warm and well-ventilated area until the skins are papery.  This takes anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks depending on your humidity.
4.     Once the onions have dried sufficiently, cut off the tops leaving about an inch of stem on top.  You can trim the roots some as well but don’t cut into the bulb.
5.     Store onions in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation. You can try braiding them like some do with garlic although I’ve never mastered the art myself. I’ve yet to actually have enough onions left after canning salsa to warrant braiding. The best bet, for me at least, is to re-use an old onion bag saved from store-bought onions. Lacking that, you can use an old pair of pantyhose.  Just slip the onions one-by-one into the leg tying a knot in between the bulbs as you go. Then hang in a cool, dark, dry place until you need them. When you do, all you have to do is cut off an onion. If you use twist ties between the onions instead of knots, you can re-use your pantyhose next year.

We planted about 250 onion sets this year and about ¾ of them actually came up. More than half of those have grown big, green tops. I might actually have some leftover! If I do, I’m going to try braiding them together.

Of course, I still smell like onions.

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