Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seeds, sets or slips?

Onions, that is.  It's January 11 and it's trying to snow and I'm searching for onion seeds.  And not having much luck.

Onions are a staple here.  I think it's a rare day that we don't have onions on the menu -- either added to a dish as it cooks, sliced on a sandwich or diced for topping green beans or something.  You know, a day without onions is like a day without sunshine.  Or something like that.

Every year we expand our onion production.  Planting more types of onions and just plain more onions.  In addition to the yellow and red onion sets DH always picks up at the local farm co-op, we've planted perennial onions like Egyptian or walking onions, welsh or bunching onions, multiplier or potato onions, and slips of sweet and storage onions. 

This year I want to grow plenty of onions suitable for storage.  The potato onions are great for this purpose but this will only be the second year growing them and I want to have lots of good, hard onions on hand through next winter. More than a second-year crop of multiplier onions can provide and still allow for next year's planting. So I need to find some onion seeds, preferably yellow Globe, and fast. 

The onions planted from sets taste great but don't keep for more than a couple of months.  We let them dry after harvesting then I tie them off individually in the legs from pantyhose (never throw anything away, remember?) and hang from hooks in our storage area.  But by January, if not before, I'm finding soft onions. 

A few years ago we bought a flat of onion slips from a booth at the local farmer's market.  They were Globe onions and they proved to be excellent keepers.  After reading up on onions and planting seeds vs. sets, I decided last year that we must start with seeds (the market gardener no longer offers the Globe slips) but didn't realize how early we needed to start them to have onions ready to transplant into the garden.  So last year went by without onions started from seed.

This year I was going to be on top of things and get that order in the first of January (instead of waiting till mid-February like last year) but one of my favorite seed sources is already SOLD OUT.  And I'm having trouble tracking down another source that I want to order from -- plus, there's the problem of being overwhelmed when I search.  SO MANY choices pop up and I start second-guessing myself about which type of storage onion I want after all.

I will get an order placed THIS WEEK for onion seeds.  I will, I will. I must.


darius said...

I should try growing onions from seed, since as you say... those from sets do not keep well.

I have had great success with the leek plants I get from Dixondale Farms although now they only carry Lancelot.

Carolyn at Walnut Spinney said...

Leeks! Thank you! Somehow I'd managed to leave those off my list...

sue said...

Yum! It's so true--onions begin almost everything we cook--sautee the onions first--they add flavor to everything, don't they? And they're really good for you. Love the photo, too! Keep us posted on your onions--I know you'll do interesting things with whatever you plant! hahaaaaa!

City Sister said...

I'm on a quest to start onions this year for the first time...it's great to read real people's opinions.

Zev said...

What's the advantage of seeded onions? What makes them keep longer, I wonder?


Carolyn at Walnut Spinney said...

I'm not sure, Zev. Maybe it's that the onions most often sold as sets aren't the best keeper varieties? Or something to do with onions being biennials so the sets would be onions in the second year, readying themselves to set seed instead of hang on for another year? (Very random thoughts here, but I'd love to know the reason, too.)