Tag Archive | Drying onions to store

An Onion Trial, Tomato Soup And Freezing Parsley

Hi all, I hope you had a good weekend.

Since the New Year, I have only been blogging twice a week and I am finding it really hard to cover everything I actually do in just two posts a week.  So I try and cover as much as possible, but I do miss out a lot, so I would like to apologise for that.  If there is anything you would like me to write about, or anything that puzzles you, please let me know.

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The weather was good here yesterday, so I managed to dig up two more rows of potatoes and dry them ready for storing.  These potatoes are a variety called ‘Piccasso’ which I have grown a lot over the years.  They are great for roasting, mashing and baking and I find they boil and hold their shape well.  So they are a good all rounder, which are great for storing over the winter.

My potatoes drying in the sun

My potatoes drying in the sun

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A couple of weeks ago, I took up my over-wintering onions.   This is a job I usually do in July, but this is another crop that was behind due to the cold spring we had.

My over-wintering onions last year didn’t do very well at all, due to an attack of the ‘allium leaf miner’.  So in autumn last year, I planted seed sown over-wintering onions (rather than sets), in the hope that they would grow stronger than the sets I usually plant.  I also covered them in environmesh to protect them.

My onions growing under environmesh

My onions growing under environmesh

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The allium leaf miner is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002.  It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time two years ago. 

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks.  Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

You can read more about the pest here.

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I am really pleased with the results, as none of them suffered from the allium leaf miner and this year I have lovely, large onions, which are now drying in my mini greenhouse ready for use:

My onions drying in my mini-greenhouse

I will use my over-wintering onions first, as they don’t store for as long as summer onions do.  I usually chop them up and freeze them, ready to use when my summer onions have ran out.  However, as it’s been such a good growing year, I am struggling with space in my freezers.

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Yesterday, I also managed to pull up my summer onions.  I planted a variety of onions this year so I could compare them and find out if one variety was more resistant to the allium leaf miner than the others, as my summer onions also suffered badly last year from this new pest.

  I sowed some seeds back in January called Bedfordshire Champion and in March I planted two different varieties of onions sets, one variety called ‘Sturon‘ and another called ‘Turbo‘.  Incidentally, both of these onion sets have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

My onion patch at the beginning of July

My onion patch at the beginning of July

The results (drumroll please)…..

I didn’t suffer very badly this year at all with the allium leaf miner, even though my summer onions weren’t covered in environmesh.  However, a few onions were affected on all three varieties, so I can safely assume that the allium leaf miner is not fussy about which onion variety it chooses and it didn’t make a difference whether the onion was grown from a seed or sets.

I don’t know yet which onion I prefer, as I need to taste them first and I would like to see how well they all store over the winter.  But on first impressions, it’s definately ‘Sturon‘ that has given me the biggest onion.

I have now set out my onions to dry for a few weeks, ready for storing over the winter:

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Last week I sowed a green manure called ‘Phacelia’ and I am pleased to say that it has germinated and growing well now.  I like using this particular green manure as I don’t need to worry about my rotational beds as it isn’t a brassicca, legume, allium or part of the potato family.  I usually sow it at this time of year in any areas that become available.

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‘Phacelia tanacetifolia’ is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.

It is a green manure that tolerates most soils, which is why I chose it, as I have a heavy clay soil.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I grow it in my wildflower area.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.

As I am sowing it as a green manure, I will chop it down and fork it in to the soil before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year.

Phacelia in flower

Phacelia in flower

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I just thought I would tell you about the winter salads that I mentioned on Friday’s blog post.  I am amazed to tell you that the winter lettuce (arctic king) and my mizuna have germinated in just four days!  I am amazed by this.  These will go into my polytunnel when I have a space in a few weeks time:

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I’ve been busy in my kitchen this week too, blanching and freezing my crops.  One of the things I have frozen is my parsley.  I don’t bother drying it, as I only really use it in a handful of recipes, including homemade garlic bread (you can find the recipe here).

It is really easy to freeze parsley:

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Start by chopping all the leaves off the stalks and wash them

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Leave the  leaves to drain so the leaves are not too wet when you freeze them.

Pop the leaves in a freezer bag and put the bag in your freezer.

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Use the frozen parsley straight from the bag.  You will find it crumbles easily ready for use when it is frozen.

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My tomatoes are ripening well now, both inside my greenhouse and outdoors at my allotment:

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I decided it was time to make my tomato soup as my daughter loves it.  This is how I make it:

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Tomato and Basil Soup

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1400g ripe tomatoes cut in half

2 medium onions chopped

2 medium potatoes chopped small

2 tablespoons of olive oil

550ml of vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves chopped

3 teaspoons of dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Gently heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and potato and soften for approximately 15 minutes, without it all browning.

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Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.

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Add the stock, garlic and basil.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

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Use a hand blender to blend the soup roughly and then pass the whole lot through a sieve to extract the seeds.  Throw away the contents of the sieve.

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Re-heat the soup and serve.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.

Have a good week!

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Drying Onions and Blackberry & Apple Flapjacks

Yesterday morning I dug up my onions.  They are not as big as normal and they are approximately a month behind, which I can only think it’s due to the weather this year.

Providing I dry them properly, they should store for quite a few months.

I am drying them in my little plastic greenhouse in my back garden, which I leave open, unless rain is forecast.  I will leave them there until they have dried, which can take 6 to 8 weeks.

Afterwards I will put them in an onion bag (not plastic) and leave in a cool dark place until I use them.

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Onion Trivia:

According to an old English Rhyme, the thickness of an onion skin can help predict what?

The severity of the winter. Thin skins mean a mild winter is coming while thick skins indicate a rough winter ahead.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, how much did the largest onion ever grown weigh?

10 pounds 14 ounces. It was grown by V. Throup of Silsden, England.

Who worshipped the onion?

The ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity.

What should you eat to get rid of onion breath?

Parsley.

A single serving of onion contains how many calories?

45 calories.

What are the three colors of onions sold in most grocery stores?

Yellow, red, and white.

What Beatles song has “onion” in the title?

Glass Onion. (The White Album)

What family does the onion belong to?

The onion is a member of the Lily family.  The common onion is known as Allium Cepa; in Latin Allium means garlic and cepa means onion – the edible bulb of a plant belonging to the botanical genus Alliaceae (or onion family). 

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On Sunday, I made lots of cakes for ‘Afternoon Tea’.  I will be writing the recipes on my blog, over the next few days.

I decided to start today with ‘Blackberry and Apple Flapjacks’, as the blackberries and early season apples are ready for picking now.

I freeze blackberries after I’ve picked them, so I can make these flapjacks all the way through the year.

All I do is wash them and then freeze them on a tray and then put them in a bag when they are frozen.  This way they don’t stick together and you can just take the amount out that you need and defrost them ready for use.

I find this recipe takes ages to cook, so I put foil over it half way through the cooking process, so it doesn’t burn.  If you use a larger tin so the mixture isn’t so deep, you can reduce the time it takes in the oven.

Blackberries at my Allotment

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‘Blackberry and Apple Flapjacks’

250g margarine

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

85g sugar

340g porridge oats

100g blackberries

1 apple grated

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Preheat your oven Gas 4 / 350F /180C

Grease an 8 inch round, loose bottom cake tin

Melt the butter, syrup and sugar over a low heat

Remove from the heat and add the oats

Add the apple and stir.

Add the blackberries and gently fold them in

Pour the mixture in the tin and flatten gently

Cook for 30 minutes then put foil over the top and cook for another 30 minutes

Cut into slices and leave in the tin until cold

Blackberry Flapjacks

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.