Fresh from The Spring Farm: Onions

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Jenny Spring

Jenny Spring

By Jenny Spring

Right now at market you will find mild-tasting, sweet summer onions.

Onions are a cold-season crop, easy to grow because of their hardiness. We plant onions early in the spring and harvest in mid-August and fall after their tops begin to turn yellow and fall over.

I start my onion seeds as early as January or February in my house. They are then grown in a greenhouse in March and then transplanted outside in the spring. I start harvesting green onions in the spring and each week they get a little bit larger.

My all time favourite onion is the sweet Walla Walla onion.

Gardening Tips:

Plant onions as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, usually late March or April. Select a location with full sun where your onions won’t be shaded by other plants.

Soil needs to be well-drained, loose, and rich in nitrogen; compact soil affects bulb development.

Till in aged manure or fertilizer the fall before planting. Onion plants are heavy feeders and need constant nourishment to produce big bulbs.

At planting time, you can mix in some nitogen fertilizer, too, and side dress every few weeks until the bulbing process begins.

Seeding? Onion seeds are short-lived. If planting seeds indoors, start with fresh seeds each year.

For sets or transplants, plant the smaller sets 1 inch deep, with 4 to 5 inches between each plant and in rows 12 to 18 inches apart.

Think of onions as a leaf crop, not a root crop. When planting onion sets, don’t bury them more than one inch under the soil; if more than the bottom third of the bulb is underground, bulb growth can be restricted.

To put energy into the bulb to grow big, I give the tops a hair cut every couple of week. I just cut off the top green stems.

Practice crop rotation with onions.

Like garlic, you have to dry out (cure) the onions before eating them. I dry them in the barn for a couple of weeks.


Recipe

Onion Rings (photo and recipe by theviewfromthegreatisland.com)
Who doesn't love onion rings? (Image: theviewfromthegreatisland.com)

Who doesn’t love onion rings? (Image: theviewfromthegreatisland.com)

Onion Ring Ingredients:

  • 1 Walla Walla Onion
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp onion salt
  • vegetable oil for frying

Basil Buttermilk Dip Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
[A tip from Jenny: Lots of people have the mistaken impression that buttermilk is full of fat and not healthy, when in fact the opposite is true. Buttermilk is technically the liquid leftover after making butter, so it’s very low in fat.  Most of what you buy in the supermarket is cultured with probiotics, sort of like yogurt, so it is healthy and has a nice tangy taste. Some people drink it straight but I mostly use it for cooking and baking. It’s one of my pantry staples.]

Instructions:

  1. Peel the onions and slice them thickly, about 1/2 inch. Gently separate the slices into rings, and don’t discard the little center pieces.
  2. Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl and add the onions. Stir to coat.
  3. Pour oil to a depth of several inches into a pan. I used about a quart of oil Heat to 350F.
  4. In a large zip lock baggie, put the flour, breadcrumbs, and onion salt, and mix well.
  5. When the oil is hot, drop a few of the onion rings into the baggie and toss to coat well.
  6. Add the onion rings to the hot oil and fry until golden, about 2 minutes, flipping once or twice. Work in small batches so you don’t crowd the pan.
  7. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot with dip.
  8. To make the dip, put the buttermilk in a small food processor or blender, and add the basil leaves and lemon juice. Process just until the basil is well incorporated. Add the seasonings to taste.

Late one June evening on the Spring Farm

Late one June evening on the Spring Farm

Jenny Spring and Oliver Wolfe are co-owners of The Spring Farm with Andrea and Brian Currie. Each week, Jenny will share a recipe featuring in-season, Muskoka-grown produce from their local farm, which is just five kilometres from downtown Huntsville. She’ll also share a gardening tip about the chosen vegetable. You can find these vegetables and more at the Huntsville Farmers’ market on Thursdays after Victoria Day in the Canadian Tire parking lot, or at The Spring Farm gate on Bethune Road North starting in June.

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