Saturday 8 July 2017

Harvesting onions

This morning I harvested my first-ever home-grown onions.

Since this year is the first time I have grown onions, I can't claim any particular expertise, but I have certainly learned a few things along the way. The first thing is that some onions perform better than others. The red ones seen above are "Red Baron", grown from sets, and they have not done very well - I think fully 50% of them have bolted - but the "Sturon" ones (one of which is seen above) have done much better. I know the Sturon ones were heat-treated (which inhibits bolting), but I don't know whether the Red Baron ones were. I suspect not.

I have also learned that onions should be planted at wider spacings than those I used. I planted mine about 6 inches apart, but I think 8 or even 10 inches would have been better. I felt that the massive tangle of foliage inhibited the onions' growth, stopping them receiving enough light and moisture. But then, I suppose if you want small onions you should plant them closely and if you want big ones you should plant them wider apart.

I know from what I have read that onions are generally considered ready when the foliage flops over and begins to go brown. Like this maybe?


Well, anyway, this morning I decided that some of them were looking ready so I lifted a few to try them. Only one of the Sturon had "flopped", but several of the Red Baron. Since I wasn't 100% sure of my judgement I only lifted a small number, just in case they turned out to be too immature.

These onions are not huge, but then they are not tiny either. Let's call them "medium-sized"!

Now it has never been my intention to keep any onions for long-term storage. I could never hope to grow enough of them to make this worthwhile. Besides, both brown and red onions are easily and cheaply available in every supermarket. My plan is to use the home-grown ones as gourmet salad-ingredients very soon after lifting, at the "green" stage when they are still very juicy. Today's batch was therefore immediately stripped of their outer skins and brought into the kitchen:

I used 3 of the 5 to make one of our favourite salad dishes - quick-pickled onions. The onions are thinly sliced, sprinkled with sea-salt and then doused in Red Wine vinegar and allowed to steep for a couple of hours.

The onions go slightly softer, but still retain much of their original "bite" as long as you don't leave them to stand for too long.

Our verdict? Delicious. Sweet and tangy. Definitely worth growing!


  1. Very interesting, I never would have thought to quick pickle onions as an accompaniment to salads.

    1. We ate some with cold roast pork - a really good combination!

  2. Dug my first batch of onions today. Used nearly all of them in one chili. Not a very good return. Agree with you on spacing, mine were quite close and thus small. Will try some different varieties next year.

  3. The red varieties never seem to do as well as the yellow ones and the white ones even worse. We don't harvest ours until the foliage dies back but we want them to dry for storing.

  4. Onions are definitely a somewhat tricky item to grow to full size. Yours are definitely medium sized.

  5. Funnily enough I've grown these two varieties aswell this year. The sturon have done much better than previous years, maybe because I actually kept them weeded this time! And I 'fed' them every now and then with a very very light sprinkling of fresh lawn clippings. The Red Baron went in later and are still v small but should hopefully have a bit of growing time left in them. The sturon aren't dieing back yet either but I really want to reuse the space so am pondering whether to lift them soon. I think I'll try and resist a bit longer. Yours look pretty good for a first attempt though, well done.


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