1 This is the section of the vegetable garden where the onions were planted. In late summer, the long onion leaves start to flop over and brown, signaling that the plants have stopped growing and are beginning to prepare for storage.
2 After a few days of heavy rain, Ryan McCallister, my gardener, decided it was time to harvest the onion beds. He didn't want the onions to be exposed to any more moisture as they might begin to rot in the ground.
3 He gently pulled a bulb out of the soil keeping as much of the papery skin in tact as possible.
4 Using scissors, he snipped off most of the root ends.
5 Any outer wrapper leaves that were obviously rotten were removed.
6 It's important to leave the tops intact, as they help the bulbs with the important next step of curing or drying. During this time, several layers of dry outer scales come together, closing up the neck at the top of the bulb and lengthening storage time.
7 Allow for no unnecessary bruising, including what might be caused by brushing off dirt. Dirt is easily removed when the onions have cured.
8 To speed up the process, Ryan developed an assembly line.
9 It's amazing to think that this nice large onion grew from a tiny seed. Ryan started all of these onions last winter in the greenhouse.
10 This satiny brownish-yellow onion is called Prince and it's an outstanding storage onion.
11 Look at the size of this red onion! It's called Shonan and was developed by the Tokyo Agricultural Experiment Station. It has excellent flavor with a crisp, sweet, mild pungency, making it excellent for salads.
12 Ryan next dug up the raised bed of Brunswick red onions.
13 Brunswick is a good reliable red onion that has very dark purple skin on each ring when sliced. It also stores well.
14 The next raised bed contained Vanguard white onions.
15 White onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow and red onions. They're also more tender and have a thinner, more papery skin, which means they don't store as well. Obviously, I will use these first.
16 Ryan was very happy to see that praying mantis have taken residence in the vegetable garden. These large insects are formidable predators that lie in ambush or patiently stalk their prey, which includes many kinds of garden pests.
17 However, praying mantis will also eat others of their own kind, so these two should really watch their backs!
18 After harvesting all of the onions, Ryan decided to begin digging the rows of potatoes. Digging should be done when the soil is dry after the vines have died back.
19 Very carefully, so as not to puncture the tubers, a pitchfork is used to loosen the soil around the potato cluster. An entire potato plant grows from just one potato eye, although you should always plant a piece of potato with at least two eyes to ensure germination.
20 The tubers form around the base of each plant among the roots. Native to the Andes of South America, the potato has become the world's fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize.
21 This variety is Yukon Gem, an improvement on the popular Yukon Gold. It has bright gold skin, pink eyes, and appealing yellow flesh.
22 Any clinging soil should be brushed off. Never wash potatoes until right before using them. Washing shortens a potato's storage life.
23 The next row dug contained a purple variety called Magic Molly.
24 Magic Molly formed some funny shapes.
25 A triple potato!
26 So many potatoes from just one plant!
27 Ryan sliced a small one apart to show that Magic Molly is indeed, purple throughout, making for an interesting potato salad.
28 These potatoes are called Red Thumb. This pink-fleshed variety has a pleasing flavor and firm flesh, making it perfect for roasting.
29 Ryan loaded up his harvest in the Kawasaki. The long red onions are called Red Torpedo, native to Mediterranean region of Italy. These mild, sweet onions are poor keepers and need to be used quickly.
30 Ryan delivered the onions to the carriage house, where the hardneck garlic and cat mint has been drying.
31 After a couple of days, the more perishable onions - Vanguard and Red Torpedo - will be moved to the kitchen for use. The others, that store better, can stay here for a few more weeks and continue curing.