Why Plant Sweet Onions?
According to Travis, planting onions are one of the most valuable crops in the vegetable garden. They generally don’t take up a lot of room and the storage life is great for multiple months. Another benefit of growing sweet onions is they provide plenty of beneficial vitamins and minerals. When using sweet onions in the kitchen there are a variety of ways that it can be cooked and used in recipes on the homestead.
Harvesting Sweet Onions
On this week’s episode, Travis is discussing ways to harvest and store sweet onions from the vegetable garden. When growing sweet onions the best time to plant is November through December in warmer climates. You will know when to harvest sweet onions because the necks will get soft and start to fall over in the garden. Travis recently harvested his Texas Legend and Red Creole onions from Dixondale Farms that he planted in November. Since onions are heavy feeders which means they need plenty of water or fertilizer we like to plant our onions on double rows with drip tape running through the middle. When planting double rows, Travis will plant on either side of the tape which allows for saving space in the garden and maximizing yield. When growing onions, Travis mentions that depending on the amount of water added to them throughout the growing season the sweeter they will become. Once Travis has pulled all of the sweet onions, he likes to lay them on the ground beside the garden to ensure they get plenty of sun for curing or drying out for a few days before storing them underneath the barn. However, during the onion curing process, it is important to keep an eye on the weather because rain can be an issue.
Storing Sweet Onions
In the South, most people don’t have storage cellars or basements to store vegetables. However, most people with homesteads do have old open-air barns with a dirt floor that is used when storing sweet onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Travis recently built a storage rack for keeping vegetables up off the ground and to keep them drier underneath the barn. The storage rack was made with 4×4’s on the end while in the middle it’s about 6 inches tall and 10 inches long. He also has 4 different racks that are all 1.5 inches apart which allows him room to stick his head in the comfortably while sorting through the vegetables. For the shelves, Travis used 1/2 inch squared hardware cloth and simply stapled that to each of the shelves. When Travis goes to store his sweet onions, he prefers to lay them out instead of stacking them on top of one another and leaves the tops on them because it keeps the onions from rolling around on the hardware cloth. Typically underneath the barn on this storage rack, the sweet onions can store for up to 6 six months or even longer.