Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What I Know About Onions

What I know about onions...well, you could engrave it on the head of a pin.  But I did learn some things about them this season.

12 May 2012: The row of yellow onions from last summer.

Originally, Ed had decided not to plant onions this year because we still had most of the ones from last summer in the ground.  There were lots of them, but they didn't develop very large bulbs.  They were more like large green onions, I suspect because we didn't thin them out and give them enough room to grow.  Still flavorful, though.

28 May 2012: The onions with little bulbs on top.

One day while we were working in the garden, I saw these funny little bulbs growing from the tops of the larger onion greens.  I said in surprise, "Oh!  What are those things?"  Ed looked on them in disgust, saying, "Oh no.  They've gone to seed."

Thinking that might be a bad thing that would destroy our garden, I offered to pull them out of the ground and serve them in that evening's dinner salad, but Ed told me to leave them.

After that, I occasionally wondered about the whole "gone to seed" concept. Every onion I knew personally had started from a bulb, so it never occured to me that there were onion seeds. If there are seeds, why do gardeners use bulbs?

19 June 2012: They really had "gone to seed"!

A few weeks later, the little bulbs had turned into fluffy balls that looked quite a lot like the "parachute" seed balls of dandelions and thistles.  They're still out there, although portions have begun to get carried away by the breeze.  Yes, the onions truly had "gone to seed."

I finally went online and looked it up.  The online gardening experts actually called it "going to flower," but the basic concept is correct.  I learned that onions have a 2-year life cycle.  The first year is when the seed grows the onion plant and puts its energy into developing the onion bulb.  The bulbs we purchase from the nursery are simply starter plants which the nursery nurtured from the tiny seed.

During the second year, the bulb quits growing and the plant's energy goes toward forming the flower and seeds.  In other words, our yellow onions are as big as they're ever going to get!

19 June 2012: Red onions growing.

Luckily for me, Ed changed his mind and decided to grow a new crop of onions to see if we can get some bigger bulbs.  This time we planted red onion bulbs, my personal favorite, next to sweet vidalias.  Wish us luck!

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