Seasonal musings about new spaces in familiar places
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Last night, the Boyfriend and I walked to the mailbox together in a drizzling, cold rain that was supposed to manifest itself as a light shower later that evening. The weathermen were wrong--crazy, I know. He opened up the mailbox and amongst the bills, junk mail, and what have come to be weekly rejection of coverage letters from my insurance, there was a small package. A little bubble mailer stuffed full of happiness. Inside was my 2011 seed order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and all the happiness that comes from having thousands of baby plants in your hands all at once. The reality that only a few of those potential babies will grow up to fulfill their destinies doesn't squelch my happiness one iota.
What makes me even more excited is that seed planting time is already upon us. I've read that I can start my onion seeds anytime now. I am straight up looking for redemption this year when it comes to our onions. Did you hear about our onions last year?
We started them early and transplanted them into the cold frames. They did quite well right from the start. We thinned them out by eating green onions, which were fabulous. But we held off on pulling them all for green onions because we wanted some big, beautiful onion bulbs in the fall. We eat a lot of onion--sorry, we try to carry gum with us at all times. In any case, the onions got their spot in the raised bed all year. They occupied valuable real estate, but we knew it would all be worth it in the fall.
They grew and grew and grew. In fact, they kept growing when the tops were supposed to die and fall over. Still, we just thought we had the biggest onions in the valley. The Boyfriend finally pulled them out one day last fall when it was clear we couldn't wait for them much longer. This mysterious harvest process had been hugely gratifying up to this point. Pulling each garlic bulb out of the ground had been like a religious experience to me. When the Boyfriend harvested our fingerling potatoes, I squealed with delight and showed them to anyone who would feign interest. When he pulled the onions out of the ground, our streak was over. They looked like giant green onions or leeks. They didn't have a bulb at all. I had clearly done something horribly wrong with our onions. Thinking they were defective, we took them straight to the compost pile. I didn't even plan on planting them again this year.
Then, a few weeks ago I was flipping through my 2011 seed catalog and some text jumped out at me: "bunching onion . . . non-bulbing white type." Excuse me? There are non-bulbing onions? I ran out to look at my seed packet from last year. Right there on the back of the packet it said: "Does not form bulbs." I read for a living. Holy crap.
So, for 2011 I will plant and pick green onions from last year's seeds and try again to get those large, homegrown onions we were hoping for last year. I ordered "Ailsa Craig" onion seeds, a "well-known globe-shaped heirloom onion that reaches really huge size--5 lbs is rather common." I'm just shooting for globe-shaped.