Introduction to the Onion Family Growing Onions, Shallots, Garlic, Chives, and Leeks Easily in Your Garden
Just do a little bit of mental globetrotting and think of all the cuisines in the world. There is absolutely no cuisine anywhere in the world, which has not used a member of the Allium family in some form or the other to make delicious fare for hungry families, down the ages.
Start them young…
Just imagine a world where we cook vegetables mixed with herbs and spices. But imagine if he did not know about this extra herbal flavoring in the shape of onions, garlic, shallots, chives and leeks. Thanks to the antibacterial qualities of garlic and onions, how many people have been saved from diseases and germs, down the ages? One cannot visualize the number thanks to the varied benefits of these particular herbs.
I remember somebody ancient telling me when I was a child that in her time, anybody who seemed to be lethargic and without energy was immediately told to go into the garden, pluck a fresh onion, and chew upon it. The ancient medicine men knew all about the rejuvenating qualities of garlic and onions. They knew about that secret ingredient, which lasted only for one hour in fresh onions, which would act like a human power-pack.
According to archaeologists onions have been natives of Asia, perhaps from Palestine to the Indian subcontinent. It has been in cultivation and has been used as a food from the earliest periods of history. It has been mentioned in the Holy Bible as one of the foods for which the Israelites longed in the wilderness.
can very well believe it, because any meal without onions in raw or cooked form seems a bit incomplete, especially for a person who has been spoiled that way.
Allium Cepa is grown all over the world, as a cool season crop, but can also be grown in a wide range of climatic conditions.
As long as there is no extreme heat and cold, you can grow onions to your heart's delight. However, they do not enjoy a very heavy rainfall either. You can grow onions as a summer crop, if the annual rainfall in your area is not more than 70 – 100 centimeters, especially in rainy weather.
Onions for use in the green stage are harvested as soon as they reach edibles size. The plants are pulled by hand. The roots are going to be trimmed. The outside skin is going to be peeled off thus leaving the stem clean and white.
These onions are now going to be washed and sorted out. They are then going to be tied in bunches. The size of the bunch is going to depend on your preference are the local market preferences.
If you leave them in the ground until the tops are dead, the bulbs are going to develop roots. This is going to result in reducing the market value of the onions.
In many parts of the world, harvesting is delayed until most of the tops are broken over. However, it is sensible to pull the onion crop and throw them into wind –rows [a wind row is a long row of cut harvest, which is allowed to stay in the field, and dry, until it is collected and bunched up.] and allow them to dry before you top them. Nowadays, most of these crops are harvested by machines that remove the bulbs from the soil and cut off the tops.
When you are pulling them by hand, you should place them in the windrows in such a manner that the tops partly cover the bulbs. This is to prevent them from suffering from sunburn- sunscald.
These are usually left in the windrows long enough for the tops to become dry. The length of time required is going to depend on the weather. It can be anywhere between 3 – 10 or more days.
Onions should be well ripened and thoroughly dry before they are stored. This curing process is normally done in the field or in a shed, where they are going to be kept for 3 – 4 weeks. Immature, soft and thick necked bulbs should be used up or send to the market, as soon as you harvest them. Do not store them.
Proper storage of onions include good ventilation, low-temperature, dry atmosphere and protection against freezing.
Shallots (Allium ascalonicum) are supposed to be natives of Western Asia. They are perennial plants and seldom produce seeds, but the bulb when planted can divide into a number of cloves.
Shallots have been in cultivation since the dawn of time. They are sometimes grown for the dry bulbs, but usually for the younger plants which are normally used in the same way as one would use green onions.
In some parts of the world, the word shallots is used for any green onions, including leeks and spring onions. This is known as a winter crop, for a bunch of green, but when it is grown as a summer of, it is used for its dry bulbs.
Leeks [Allium Porrum] is a biennial plant, grown for its blanched leaves and stem. Leeks originated in the Mediterranean region, where they have been in cultivation since prehistoric times.
The ancient Greeks and Romans could not do without leeks in their cuisine. Even though the demand for market growers to grow leeks, for city consumption is increasing yearly, leeks are still not as popular as onions, and even shallots as greens.
This book gives you plenty of information about the allium family and how you can grow them in your garden. These herbs have been an integral part of human life for millenniums. To make onions more popular in France, especially in the 17 century, royalty decided on a great exercise of snobbery. Only aristocrats and royalty could wear onion flowers on their buttonholes.
The common people decided that there was something special about these pungent smelling bulbs, and that is why they began to look for Ways and Means in which they could get access to these plants.
And because it was supposedly inaccessible, just like the potato, – which incidentally was also popularized by the same result for royalty only edict – onions have now become a major part of French cuisine.
So, started growing these plants in your garden, and get them fresh.
Live Long and Prosper!