Volume 8, Week 36, April 26-May 2, 2015
This week: A look at the hands-on methods for growing fresh onions in the field and your farmer’s tips for tear-free onion cutting.
An onion’s upright, tube shaped leaves make only a lousy attempt to shade out competing weeds, thus, all of the onions growing in the sandy KMK soil need a little extra help. Find the farmer in his field, armed with an antique wheel hoe.
The wheel hoe is a tool pushed with two hands like a wheelbarrow that uses a spade to uproot and also bury freeloading weeds growing close to crops.
KMK started out with just one antique wheel hoe that was purchased as a decoration and then serendipitously put to use. They’ve now upgraded to a modern take on the old style design and the whole team perfers them.
Though it’s more time consuming, a wheel hoe beats out the tractor for weeding onions because it can get closer to the plant and yields the benefits of the farmer’s footsteps on the ground.
“This gets me in the field to get a feel for every plant and what’s going on out here,” said KMK farmer Kyle Reynolds. “I love to come out here at the end of the day, after a busy day, when I’ve had a lot on mind, put on some music, and go. It really is therapy.
Your farmer Dave Mendrin specializes in potatoes, but as the son of an onion grower, he knows a thing or two about a really fresh onion. Dave explains:
“The sulfer aroma that an onion lets off when it’s cut is its natural defense and healing method. The part that burns your eyes is only released when you cut around the root area. Hence, we ALL cut an onion starting at the top and moving to the bottom—and then when get the effect from it right when we’re done, we think, ‘It finally got to me!’”
He continues, “The best ways to cut an onion without crying and cursing the grower is to:
(1) Make sure the neck, roots, and two or three layers of outer skin are dried and cured.
(2) Start cutting at the neck but as soon as you’re done, rinse the cut pieces under cold water.
(3) Disregard the last quarter inch of the onion by the root, as this part brings the most discomfort.”
Sounds like Dave himself wouldn’t choose any of those methods though, as the flavor promised by a super fresh onion makes pushing through the pain his favorite option.
“Being raised by a father who specialized in fresh market onions, I say, cut them and enjoy them the way you want and deal with the pain because there is nothing better than a FRESH onion!”
The early season onions you’re seeing now are called short day onions, because they grow when the days are, yes, shorter. Short day onions are sweeter and more delicate than their sibling, the long day onion, which we’ll begin seeing after high summer and into the fall.