What’s in the box, week of April 20

Hi, all, Josh Calhoun here from the Sustainable Ag program, and here’s what’s in the CSA box this week:

LOTS OF YUMMY LEAFY GREENS!

  • Salad Mix
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Green onions
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Baby Spinach
  • Radiccio

The green onions bring to mind a bit of bad luck on my farm this year with my first attempt to try growing bulb onions:

So, my story begins during a random trip to Country Farm and Home in downtown Pittsboro, mid-October of last year.  Walking in through the lofty front area where feed, rolls of ag cover, and the nice hand tools are hung, I spy baskets full of sweet bulb onion sets at a good price.  Being the adventurous gardener type, I figure, why not?  I purchased enough to plant a 40-square-foot plot, took them home, and planted them spaced further apart but similar to garlic, mulch and all.   I was imagining all the sauteed sweet onions for different dishes and slices for burgers I could eat when they were ready in the spring!

Little did we all know what would happen…

I watered them and gave them all the care they needed, watching with delight when they broke through the mulch.  They grew taller, and the hollow onion leaves grew bigger, wider, longer.  Suddenly, around mid-March, a couple of them seemed to be growing an oddly-shaped leaf from the center of the plant… A FLOWER HEAD!  Then more and more of them were sprouting heads.  Over half in total.  20170410_173820

Cool, I thought, they’re just like garlic scapes.  I can pop them off and the bulbs will grow bigger!  Wrong.  Upon further research, that is not the case.  Breaking off the scape will allow water into the core of the plant, causing rot.  Onions are biennial plants, meaning it takes two years to flower and set seed.  Onion sets are already one year old, and if they’re ready to flower, they most certainly will.  One cause is extreme differences in temperature shocking them into flowering.  If you don’t get what happened before, you probably do now.  The warm winter we had allowed my onions to get nice and big, but then the brief snaps of frost shocked them into flowering. If bulb onions flower, they will not store well beyond a week or two, and only in the refrigerator.  Your only choice is to pull them, enjoy the 30″ scapes in a vase or pitcher (they’re an interesting visual, but you need room), trim the roots and leaves, and use the giant green onions (mine were over an inch in diameter) in soups, stir-fry, or fresh in salads, much like leeks.

Stand over a sink when you first cut the scapes: they hold an incredible amount of water. Don’t worry, you won’t get an eye-full, but quite a bit of onion-y juice will pour out.

For future reference, if you want to try to grow bulb onions, short-day or intermediate-day varieties are best for the NC Piedmont.  I will still be able to enjoy a few good sweet bulbs by the end of spring that didn’t flower, and you, the reader, may have better luck than me.  Enjoy your CSA box this week!

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