The Sweet Onion: Patience and Payoff
August first! Feeling like it’s finally peak season around here. Peak season means harvest, harvest, and harvest! Bounty! Abundance! Summer hot crops! And for me this year, August first and peak season means the end of my job as greenhouse manager on the farm. Just last week I moved the last of the plants out of the greenhouse to prepare them for planting. Now as I walk through the greenhouse, there are no more plants to pet, just empty tables waiting to be filled next season.
We grow everything from seed here except berries. This means that the huge cabbage, the bunch of kale, and that bag of salad made its way to your tacos or your soup by way of one tiny seed that was seeded, germinated, fertilized, watered, and treated with the utmost care in the first month of its sweet little life.
For me, the craziest journey from seed to plate is the onion. It’s a story of patience, and waiting, and caring until that sweet moment when you can pull up a beautiful full round fresh sweet onion from the ground. I feel as though onions are massively undervalued for all the work and effort it takes to grow them. Onions are one of the first varieties we seed in the greenhouse in early February. They are slow growers, so for about 2 months they sit in the greenhouse getting carefully watered and tended to until they go out for transplant in the field around April. The transplant is tireless and long as we plant them in 3 rows, 6 inches apart. Once they are all planted, the next challenge is to keep them weed free. Because they are so slow to grow, it means that there is plenty of time for weeds to germinate under them. Henry cultivates the little onions on the tractor until the foliage is too big to drive through, then we have to hand weed them one or two times more until the first harvest, which is usually around July. So now these plants have been nurtured and tended to for about 5-6 months!!!
Even after we harvest them all, we will put them in the greenhouse to “cure.” This is the process of drying the skins so they will be able to store in your kitchens for months so we can be eating onions throughout the winter as we wait for next year’s crop to grow.
A true heroic story, the onion. I hope people can really appreciate that, because we (at least I) use onions EVERY time I cook. And they are especially delicious when they’re fresh. Enjoy them, because now you know their life journey!
So as the crew buckles up for hustle season, my duties are winding down and now I get to enjoy the bounty of the greenhouse!