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Drying onions

Sally's drying onions

red onion 'Rossa Savonese'It’s been a good onion year: sun plus a spot or two of rain and mine are about as enormous as they’ve ever been. My prize specimens have been my ‘Stuttgarter Giant’ - a sort of beginner’s show onion. Not quite as large as some but satisfyingly eyecatching nonetheless: around 15cm across each, with a handsomely flattened, golden-skinned bulb.

To grow the really sweet red onions, like the Italian ‘Rossa Savonese’, you’ll have to sow from seed: more patience than I’ve got, but I might yet be converted (we really like red onions).

I bring onions in around now, once the stems have collapsed into a brownish heap on the ground. They won’t be doing any more growing so you may as well dig them up: ideally, loosen the roots a couple of days in advance, just so they stop sucking up moisture and start to go into a state of suspended animation.

If it’s reliably sunny for two weeks after lifting them you can dry them on the surface of the soil: this can be a pipe dream in the UK, so best just to get on with stacking them one layer thick in trays to dry. Mushroom trays are fine; you can also lay them on pallets as long as the gaps aren’t too wide or apple racks.

Bring them into the greenhouse for two weeks of irritation as you tiptoe over them where they’re blocking your pathways, not forgetting to turn them every day or two so they’re evenly dried. Once your fortnight is up, you can take them inside and string them into long plaits to hang in your spare room or corridor (kitchens are a little damp, though our onions get used so quickly you can just about get away with it a store in onion storage bag. They should last like that for around six months, through till February next year: that’s if you haven’t eaten them by then…

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