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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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Quinoa and grilled sourdough salad is a classic for summer evening supper or lunch

It’s a good idea to cease watering onions for about two weeks before harvesting to help with that drying out, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

AT THIS TIME of year, thoughts turn to harvesting this year’s onion crop.

Though the over-wintered crop bolted earlier in July (probably due to the stress caused by the snow in March), the spring-sown crop did well. I didn’t count, but I reckon I have about 150 onions for winter storage, which is not bad at all.

Onions are one of the last crops to suffer from a severe drought so mine didn’t seem to object too much to the prolonged dry conditions in July. Bolted onions won’t store, so we’ve been eating away on them for the last month.

It is of course, absolutely fine to eat onions fresh from the ground (effectively they are known as ‘green’ onions) but you have to first dry them out if you wish to store them. It’s a good idea in fact, to cease watering onions altogether about two weeks before harvesting to help with that drying out.

So how do you know when they are done? Generally speaking onions are ready when the tops of the plants fall over. An old trick was to bend the stems yourself, but this is now frowned upon (not sure who exactly frowns on it, but there you go).

onions drying

Many GIYers loosen the soil around the bulb with a fork to accelerate bulb ripening and allow them some more space to swell – a suggestion I once received was to turn the onion very gently and very slightly in the soil, which presumably achieves the same thing.

Incidentally our Head Grower Richard thinks this is one of those great garden myths that doesn’t actually achieve anything at all and should be avoided. Richard being Richard he has tested it out and found no difference between the onions that were turned and the ones that weren’t.

A week or so after the stems have bent over, the leaves will start to wither and yellow. Lift the onions and shake off the soil. If the weather is dry, place them on a wire rack outside to dry. If prolonged rain is forecast, keep them on a rack in the greenhouse or tunnel. Leave for 10 days to dry out or until the skin is paper thin. The presence of moisture in the onions is what causes them to rot in storage so make sure all the moisture is gone from them (particularly in the neck) before you store.

After that you can store them in net bags or make a braid by twisting the onion tops around some wire. Store somewhere cool and dry. Remove any shoots that form over the winter.

The Basics – pumpkin and squash care

Pumpkin and squash plants have really taken off in the last few weeks and the bed where they are planted is likely to be a mass of foliage now – so much so, it can be hard to work out where the centre of the plant is.

Seeing them in situ like this, it’s easy to see why they are considered excellent ground cover – weeds don’t stand a chance against them. Marking the centre of the plant with a short stick can be a good plan, so you know where to water (and you should water if the weather is dry).

Given half the chance, these plants will continue to grow, trailing over beds and taking over every available space. To avoid this, and encourage the fruits to swell, nip out the growing tip. If you want to keep the plants in check, you can train them (carefully) in to compact circles by pinning down the shoot with bent wire.

Recipe of the Week – Quinoa and grilled sourdough salad

I can highly recommend Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook ‘Plenty’ as a supremely useful cookbook for the home-grower. I like that it’s a meat-free book that’s written by a committed meat-eater (similar I guess to the River Cottage ‘Veg Everyday’ book written by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall) – it’s full of top-notch, veg-focussed recipes that just happen not to include meat or fish.

This recipe is a classic for a summer evening supper or lunch – using some basic store cupboard ingredients, good sourdough bread and most importantly good quality veg and herbs coming from your veg patch.

In some ways the word ‘salad’ doesn’t quite seem to fit, as it’s a meal in itself – it seems to me to most resemble a panzanella. It’s perhaps even better the following day (if there’s any left over!) as the bread gets soggy with the dressing ingredients. Yum.

Ingredients:

  • 40g quinoa
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 70ml olive oil, plus extra to brush the bread
  • 4 ripe medium sized tomatoes
  • 3 small cucumbers, unpeeled
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced (or shallot would work too)
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place the quinoa in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 9 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a fine sieve, rinse under cold water and leave to dry.

Brush the bread with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay on a baking sheet and bake for ten minutes, turning halfway through.

The bread should be completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then break by hand in to different sized pieces.

Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers in to roughly 2cm dice and put in a mixing bowl.

Add all the remaining ingredients, including the quinoa and croutons and stir gently until everything is mixed well. Taste and season.

© GIY Ireland 2018 – all rights reserved.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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