Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Early Summer Harvesting: Onions and Garlic...and growing mushrooms

Daily summer abundance of healthy, fresh, delicious home-grown produce is now a reality.  A recent, late-morning harvest basket contained beets with their red-ribbed greens, carrots, onions, green beans, basil, strawberries, and raspberries.

If I want a salad to munch I just get what is available in the garden.  Onions rings, grated carrots, heat-resistant crisphead lettuce, baby beet slivers and their tops, Parmesan shavings, and yogurt/olive oil/chili dressing was one such impromptu salad.

Or if I want a hot veggie side dish, I braise some radishes in butter, sugar, garlic, and apple cider vinegar.  Radishes cooked in this manner have a milder taste, closer to that of turnips.

We are shameless lovers of mushrooms chez nous.  I always wanted to grow our own meadow mushrooms.  The Calm One bought a discount kit at Lidl for a few euros that was a complete bust--no mushrooms.  Undaunted, I bought another kit at my plant nursery and this time, oh, nice, nice, nice mushrooms!  It takes about a couple of weeks to start harvesting mushrooms which lasts over several weeks.

The mushrooms are just gorgeously fresh and when sliced, their gills are a lovely pinkish brown instead of the typical dark brown. It is just wonderful to be able to slice one or two mushrooms into a salad instead of having to deal with a whole punnet/pint or fishing out a few mushrooms out of the bulk bin and bunging them into a plastic bag and weighing them.  Ugh, I hate supermarket shopping.

Dayo is staying out long hours and apparently recharges his furry batteries by reclining on some young carrot seedlings.

The hard neck garlic did not put out scapes as it seems they don't provide those delectable flower stalks in hotter climates which is a little disappointing because I wanted so much to make scape pesto with them.  However, as there is a bumper basil crop, I can still make pesto.  I am very pleased with my harvest because they are huge bulbs.  I grew soft-neck garlic last season, and though they store longer, the cloves are so small and too pesky to handle.  I did an accidental experiment as I forgot to sidedress with fertiliser one half of the bed.  Well, not surprisingly, the fertilised half yielded much larger bulbs.  When there are two to three brownish lower leaves, then it is time to harvest garlic.

Garlic ready to harvest will have a few green top leaves

Garlic is quite fragile so no drying out in the sun.  As soon as possible after pulling them up out of the ground, shelter them in a shady place for curing. I will lightly peel off dirty outer wrappings if requiredThere are enough bulbs for eating and some for planting this autumn for next season's crop.  I reserve the largest and best bulbs for sowing.

Garlic yet to be tidied up in the background

I did remember to side dress the onions and most of them are delightfully big.  There is a point just above the head, along the green stalk, that gets soft, causing the plant to keel over.  If about three quarters of the onions have keeled over, then that's a go ahead to harvest.  If the weather promises to be wet and therefore increasing the chance the onions may be susceptible to rotting, I will test to see if that spot is soft enough for it to fall over with a little help from myself.

Onions can be left right where they are harvested for a few hours to dry out and then they join the garlic in an airy spot, sheltered from sun and rain for several weeks of curing and eventual storage in a cool, dark place.

A small part of the onion harvest

Before curing the onions in a place sheltered from rain and sun, I clean them up a bit by peeling off any dirty, loose wrapping, being careful that I don't get carried away with the peeling.  With this moist season, some onions needed a bit more peeling than usual.  In the below photo, the onion on the left is untouched, the middle one is what most of the onions required, and for the one on the right, is what some particularly dirty onions went through--it will completely dry with a lovely golden brown skin eventually.

This season's garlic and onion harvest

The garlic and onions will stay under the pergola for several weeks before they will become fully dried and ready to have their roots and tops trimmed.  Onions store well for about six months in a root cellar.  After that, I will freeze the remaining.


Planting onion sets
Fertilising onions