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Gardening with Tod
June 2015

Onions in all shapes and sizes

How many savoury recipes can you think of that don't call for onions? Stir fries, casseroles, quiches, pasta sauces – let's face it; they all taste better with this very natural flavour enhancer.

And while the round, brown-skinned variety may be the first thing that springs to mind, don't forget onions come in a range of forms that include the spring onion, red spring onion, red onion and pearl drop.

Because they're such a kitchen staple, in my mind it makes sense to have one or more of these plants flourishing in your garden at home. To get started, simply pop down to your local supermarket, The Warehouse or Bunnings and pick up some of our Traditional Value onion seedlings. Or head to our online store at www.awapuni.co.nz and get them delivered direct to your door.

I bet the traditionalists among you will go for the Pukekohe longkeeper with its brown skin and white flesh. This variety is known for its resistance to bolting, and ability to be stored for a long time. Our longkeeper does best in soil that's friable – by that I mean soil that goes crumbly when you touch it. To start growing, dig a hole about 3cm deep and plant your first seedling. Plant each subsequent seedling 10cm away from its neighbour in rows that are about 20cm apart. If you?re a spinach fan, try popping this in between the rows as it makes a great companion plant. Keep aphids at bay and your Pukekohe longkeepers will be ready to harvest in 20 to 24 weeks (yes, patience is a virtue when it comes to these babies!).

If it's pickled onions you're after, you'll likely get your hands on some pearl drop seedlings. This pure white cocktail onion has crisp, round and slightly flattened bulbs. It also has thin skin that can be rubbed off straight after harvesting. I always advise people to choose soil that's rich, and in an area with full sun. After planting, simply keep the soil moist and this low maintenance variety will grow up to 4cm in diameter, and to a height of 45cm. You'll know it's ready to harvest when the tips of its leaves begin to turn brown.

If you like to spice up your salads or stir fries, you'll no doubt choose the red spring onion with its bright red attractive stalks and mild, sweet taste, or the more traditional green spring onion. These can be planted anywhere you have space – even in a simple pot on the veranda. Plant each seedling
3 to 4cm apart, and in six to eight weeks your spring onions should reach a height of 70-75cm and be ready to harvest. I like to pop new seedlings into the ground every month for a year-round, continuous supply.

Salad and sandwich lovers may also go for the striking red onion (or purple onion as I think it should really be called). Simply follow my planting instructions for the Pukekohe longkeeper, and in five to six months you'll have some home-grown, flavour-filled goodness in your hot little hands.
Good things are worth waiting for, right?

Tod Palenski
Awapuni Nurseries
www.awapuni.co.nz

 
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