Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oh, Humble Onion

Rossa di Milano & Dakota Tears, our powerhouse storers
Now that we've received and inventoried most of our seeds for this coming season, we can begin to tweak our established crop plan. Essentially, this means making changes to the numbers of each crop we're planting in the field. Truthfully, it's not horrendous work. We made these decisions, generally, when ordering seeds. But now we have to get more specific and mark it down in our nifty spreadsheets. That's the gist, anyway.

Of course it's more complex than that and takes a bunch of thought and reflection. Just as the roofer says he just nails shingles, we all know there's a boatload of knowledge and work behind it.

But it's not all drudgery. Part of what keeps crop planning interesting year after year is the crops themselves. For instance, when we are increasing production on a crop because we think it's the bees knees, it's exciting to daydream about all of the reasons we are smitten. Take onions, for example. We are doubling our production of storage onions this year because, well, onions are bad asses.

Many of us modern humans take for granted that onions are the foundation of most of our meals. We buy them year round without any hesitation and certainly under-appreciate what kick-butt crops they are. What's so awesome about an onion? Well, how about these apples? It is a crop, when placed in the right conditions to cure, whose skins (at least for the storage types) will literally tighten around the bulb, and whose necks will wither and close off the onion like a cap -- all of this combining to maintain moisture within the layers of oniony flesh, thus allowing it to be stored for months. Months! That's some amazing stuff. Because of this storability, it is a crop that was a source of sustenance for millennia in barren winters and in some cases even helped prevent thirst.

It's no wonder they served more grandiose purposes throughout history than they do today. Oh humble onion, what a regal past you've had! Onions have been revered from Ancient Greece, where Olympic athletes apparently ate pounds of them, drank onion juice, and rubbed onions all over their bodies before competitions (what?), to Europe in the Middle Ages, where onions were oft given as wedding gifts. Humans throughout history have rightly placed this crop on a pedestal, and we can't help but follow suit. Especially when it comes to our storage powerhouses, Rossa di Milano and Dakota Tears.

Rossa di Milano, with her unique squared-off shoulders, stout torpedoesque shape, and gorgeous red papers, really packs a wallop, while Dakota Tears has a pungent, tear-producing flesh that adds such rich flavor to any meal, we can only be her humble servants. We are loyal to these two not only because they are beautiful in a take-your-breath-away kind of way, but even more importantly, because they fit the bill on all counts. First, they are both pungent, which means two things to these farmers -- they are big on flavor and they possess the compounds that inhibit rot (the more pungent an onion, the better the storability). They also both happen to produce well in the field across soil types, weed pressure, and weather crises. SOLD!

We want more! And just like humans throughout many millennia, we think our members just might appreciate more, too. Check out the other varieties of alliums (fresh onions, bunching onions, garlic, leeks, chives) we are growing on our 2015 crop list, and sign up to get scads of these babies in our CSA over here.