Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ode to Alliums - Curing and Braiding

Where would we be without the onion family? That pungent sweet deliciousness that adds flavour to everything. They even have pretty flowers that the bees and butterflies adore. I'm a sucker for for an umbel, especially a spherical one, and leave many leeks and onions in the vegie patch just to enjoy their flowers. This year, from the onion family, we have grown, onions - red/white and brown, leeks - perennial and standard, chives, spring onions, golden shallots and garlic, lots of garlic. We also have a little angled onion weed (Allium triquetrum) growing that is a weed I have been removing, but all parts of it are edible, and I hear it's currently all the rage in expensive Melbourne restaurants.

I let a few red onions self seed last summer, the seedlings popped up all by themselves in winter and I transplanted them successfully to a new spot. Garden volunteers are awesome.
 Spring onion flowers, I find spring onions will happily self seed and multiply if left to their own devices. Spring onions are great as they are super tough and if you cut them at the base they will re-sprout,  providing you with a never-ending supply. Even dug up ends can be put back in the ground, they're so forgiving. So tasty in summer salads.  Garlic and onions are far more finicky and do best if planted close to the winter solstice, if planted too early they bolt to flower and don't produce bulbs.  They also don't care much for competition and do best if given a space of their own in the vegie patch.

 The onions were falling over so I figured it was time to harvest, they also had a tell tale soft spot at the point where the leaves divide in two.  I also wanted the space they were growing in to plant my summer crops. Some have been braided and are curing in the shade.  The smaller ones I chopped up to caramelise, lots of cooking in oil on a medium heat.

 It is so disappointing how much onion shrinks, I though I was making a truck load of caramelised onion but it ended up to be a bowl full. I turned it into a very quick and easy BILL GRANGER’S CARAMELISED ONION TART, find the recipe here
I stopped watering the garlic a couple of weeks prior to harvest, they were falling over, so I pulled them and let them dry a little in the sun.

Braiding hair has never been a skill I learnt successfully and I have found braiding garlic similarly challenging.  I have watched the you tube clips studiously, but it has taken forever for the penny to drop. Here is a great link on how to braid them, my don't look nearly so pretty. Having a lot of garlic means a lot of time cutting of roots, cleaning of dirt, and braiding of garlic. I popped on an old episode of RRR's Dirty Deeds and learnt about gardening whilst bundling. There was also time to watch an old episode of Gardening Australia, all about gardening through drier times.

My favourite garlic of the season has to be Diggers Purple Monaro, sounds like something you could drive but produced wonderfully coloured large bulbs. The bulbs will dry and develop flavour over the next few weeks, we already added some to garlic chicken this week.

 Fortunately there has been plenty of garlic to practice on, I got a little carried away in June. Most of these were grown from the garlic I forgot from last years harvest that had sprouted little cloves to be dug up and transplanted - I find they don't mind this treatment at all.  I have managed to be self sufficient in garlic for the last two years, this year I had the perfect amount with about 5 old bulbs left at harvest time. They keep best braided indoors in a dark cool place.

I am still waiting for the golden shallots to do their thing. the perennial leeks are ever present and our chives are green and long. Thank goodness for onions.

Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.


  1. Oh I am so so jealous of your garlic, mine were an absolute failure. Well done for such a great job. And is that one of the most enormous pile of raspberry canes behind the garlic patch? If so i am quite jealous again

    1. yes enormous, we have two raspberry patches looking very loaded. I think you can't go wrong with garlic so long as they are not in competition with something else or drowned, they hate too much water.

  2. Congrats on a successful garlic harvest,(my favorite crop to grow) great pics of them from ground to plaits.I too grow lots of Alliums and over the last week have been enjoying the red onions sliced in salad. I still have lots of leeks mature in the ground and not quite sure what to do with them all...........
    Yep I'm a bit envious of those raspberry canes too !!

    1. It is such a satisfying crop Andrea, I love it, a lot of garlic pride going on around here, we could have a parade. I find the leeks quickly bolt to flower this time of year, then you end up with a hard stem in the middle, but if you leave them in they multiply and you have more leeks next winter - if you can spare the space.

  3. Fantastic! That is a terrific bunch of garlic. I haven't been game to pull mine up yet - I've never had any success in the past but hoping this year will be the one. I have only just discovered growing spring onion. I agree it's great. I never knew you could chop them off and they would re-shoot until a little while ago. Terrific. And they grow all year round don't they? And you tell us they self seed... gotta love w self seeding, chop and come again, grow all year round veggie.

    1. It's a real quiet hero in the garden veggiegobbler. Hope your garlic is a good crop this year.

  4. You garlic looks great, mine have been quite mixed size wise. The purple monaro did OK for me too but mine never flowered - did yours?

    1. The monaros didn't flower, it was more the transplanted garlic that had been in the ground for longer that developed scapes. If they flower the bulbs tend to not be as big so I was happy for them to miss that bit.


In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
Margaret Atwood

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead.”
― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young