|Homer Bucket of Onions: Partial Harvest|
It's about that time of year when the wife that is Venus and I play this little game of "let's make dinner." That is -- we will tell one another that we want to make a particular dish, but need to purchase things such as "tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, green onions, etc."
Of course -- this is our version of a ginormous joke -- since we have ginormous amounts of these things protruding from the summer garden beds. We've reached that Nirvana time of year when every carrot is at least a foot long and two inches thick, each tomato weighs at least a pound and is loaded with flavor and one green onion is larger than the bunches of five or six green onions sold at the local grocery store.
|A Garden Whopper: The Candy Onion|
In short? Gardening life is good. It's very good. Every meal features something fresh. And if it doesn't? Someone made a royally bad mistake. Even something a simple as a frozen pizza tastes better with extra toppings of chopped up bell peppers and green onions. And WHY are you eating frozen pizza when you can whip up a garden fresh soup featuring a hodge-podge of fresh this and that?
The frozen pizza can sit and wait in the freezer.
It is indeed harvest time on the Bird Ranch for Wayward Heirloom Tomatoes. The heirlooms are popping. The squash is prolific. Bell peppers make for a sweet and tasty treat. But one of the bigger successes just came out of the ground just last month: one of the largest and sweetest onion harvests we've ever had the pleasure of taking part it.
|Bunches and Bunches of Candy Onions|
No matter where you turn in the Bird GarageMahal, you're going to run into a Homer five gallon bucket of onions here -- or another five gallon bucket there. Or you just might run smack dab into onion monsters that are hanging and curing from an exposed set of rafters. Short and sweet? We got onions. Lots and lots of onions.
I would have to characterize this year's "onion experiment" with Dixondale Farms in (flat as a) Pancake, Texas a tremendous success. I have never grown onions this huge or this tasty before, and never before in the numbers that we experienced this year. Sure -- there were a few "duds in the bunch." But that's to be expected with just about anything when it comes to gardening (at least for yours truly). But as I began to pull mammoth whopper after mammoth whopper from the ground, I knew this was one of them rare experiments that had totally succeeded.
|Onion Starters in February|
Excuse me while I cry for a moment. This just doesn't happen often.
Unlike past years, when I would plants onion and garlic bulbs at about the same time of year (October), I waited to order my onion crop. It wouldn't arrive until early February. In the meantime, I educated myself on what I had done wrong in the past. I would come to discover that no onion is like the other. All of them are different. Some grow well in some areas. Others do not.
It was during this research that it dawned on me that purchasing that package of onion bulbs from my local nursery in September or October wasn't the wisest of decisions. Sometimes those packages contained onion bulbs that were not intended for, nor would grow to a large size, in the Sacramento Valley. Why would a nursery or Big Box store do that? Simple! It's the same question as, "why would they sell that Hass Avocado tree" when they know it will perish in our cold Sacramento climate?" Or, "why are they selling tomato plants in February when tomato planting season isn't for another two months?"
|Red Candy Apple Onions|
Simple! It's because people who don't know any better (see: Bill Bird) will happily fork over $20 for it. And if it dies? That's OK too! Because the people who sold you the wrong kind of onion bulbs or that avocado tree that kicked the bucket know all too well that you'll be back in another couple of months to fork over another $20 in a vain and wasted attempt to correct the problem.
It's called "marketing for dummies."
I finally got around to listening to the patient advice of a South Natomas vegetable gardener who has been at this game a little bit longer than I have, and gave into his suggestion of giving Dixondale Farms the old college try. After reading, and more importantly, understanding the different between "long-day, intermediate-day, short-day" and "Green Day" onions, I finally understood what I'd been doing wrong.
|Green Day Onions. KIDDING!!! They're CANDY!|
Note: To the uninitiated, there is no such thing as "Green Day" onions. If you ask for them at a nursery, you're likely to earn a howl of laughter or a blank stare. "Green Day" isn't an onion. "Green Day" is a rock-n-roll band.
Short and sweet? If you plant the right kind of onion bulb or onion start, fertilize, water and care for it properly, you will be rewarded with monster-sized onions. Monster sized onions mean monster sized onion rings -- made with a fresh beer batter.
Sure! You can use your onion crop for healthy things like salads and such! There's nothing wrong like that! But only I can tell you the wonderful taste behind taking a healthy thing like a freshly grown onion, dipping it into a batter and dropping it into a vat of hot oil!
Mix in rings procured from a home grown Super Star white onion, add in some beer, flour and salt, and you've got a meal fit for a King or Queen.
Simple Beer Batter Recipe
1 cup beer (the better the beer, the better the onion ring)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion or garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
|Onion Rings in Waiting|
Mix all items, minus the vegetable oil, together in a bowl until smooth. If the batter does not take on the consistency of a pancake batter, add more beer.
Cut off both ends of an onion (preferably home grown), and proceed to cut into slices anywhere from a half inch to an inch thick. Separate slices into individual rings.
Fill frying pan with raised edges with a half inch of oil and heat to medium-low. Proceed to dip each onion ring into the beer batter, using tongs to add directly to hot oil. Turn when edges turn light brown. Remove from heat when both sides are light brown and drain. Add additional salt, if needed, for taste, or a favorite dipping sauce!