Thursday, November 4, 2010
This summers onions, leeks, shallots and scallions
I don't know what I would do without onions and garlic. Leeks and shallots are kind of a special bonus, I enjoy their different flavors. We begin almost every dinner meal by peeling and chopping onions and garlic. With the amount of onions I planted and tended all summer, I should have had enough onions to last until next summer, but I don't. I planted three sets of a Copra storage onion, about sixty to seventy plants per set. I planted the onions in four different locations in the garden, so some were in the hottest sunniest place in the garden, and some were lower down on the hill where it was cooler and moister. I didn't notice a difference between the different locations, however there was a huge difference between how the varieties grew. I also planted Ailsa Craig, which is a sweet white onion that supposedly gets large enough to be an exhibition onion but does not store well. I planted one set of red onions, a couple sets of leeks and a small amount of shallots. The Ailsa Craig and the red onion actually grew to decent sizes, unlike the Copra which grew to about golf ball size and then sat there for the rest of the summer. I've had the onions hanging and drying indoors and just took them down last week. I bagged up the storage onions and have them hanging in mesh bags under our house, which stays in the high forties low fifties. I'm guessing I hung about twenty pounds of golf ball sized Copra onions, I'll use them and be thankful - but peeling tiny onions is more work. So for now I'm stoked to be cooking with the full sized sweet onions. I may have to chop a bunch up for freezing, dehydrating or preserves as I'm not sure they are going to keep much longer. I'm guessing I've got about thirty pounds of Ailsa Craig in two baskets to be used up over the next month or two. I did dehydrate one batch of sweet onions, they taste surprisingly sweet and have a nice texture. I saw a recipe that ground up dehydrated onions and mixed them with sour cream - or I'm thinking chevre, for a chip/cracker dip. I've also been thinking of making a carmelized onion preserve to go with roasts or meat dishes.
Shallots were a complete failure. I ordered a half a pound along with my onion order, but they shipped separately- so shipping them cost more - so an indulgence that I had high hopes for. I planted them in early May and covered them with plastic. They started off growing well and early in good soil. Then a hard rain came along in June and they were all flattened, never to make a comeback and start growing again. They started rotting at the base, so I pulled them and dried them, but most of them were rotten on the outside and barely usable. I love shallots, and usually splurge for shallots at the store this time of year, especially for squash soup. But this year the onions are so tasty, I haven't been missing them.
The leeks grew pretty well. We were pulling a few here and there for soups as early as late July. They stayed in the garden until we had a couple frosts, and they were looking droopy. I spent a couple afternoons cleaning leeks. I chopped off the tops and froze a few two gallon bags full, to pull out and use for stock. I also froze a few gallon bags full of the white parts. I just finished off using a bag of fresh leeks, so I haven't pulled out any frozen ones yet - my first time freezing leeks, but supposedly they didn't need blanching, I'm wondering how they will slice up, maybe I should have sliced them and frozen them in serving size bags. Leeks are kind of a frivolous crop. It would be different if they could stay in the garden all winter and I just pulled a few whenever needed. But as they take up precious summer garden room and then, most recipes just call for the white part, and they take a lot of time to clean...well I love having my own leeks around, so I'm enjoying them in soups this winter.
I was thrilled with the scallions this year. I love scallions. I almost always have fresh scallions in the fridge - they are a staple on the grocery list. I sowed them around the first of May and covered them with plastic. They grew really well, and we harvested them as needed from late June to late September, four months of my own scallions, and the ones picked in August and September were huge. I've grown scallions in the past and tried getting a jump start by starting them indoors and transplanting them, which is tedious. So direct sowing them was the way to go. I'll be planting twice as many, and more varieties next year.