Garlic, Onions and Shallots

We use garlic, onions and shallots regularly in our kitchen. They are very easy to grow too. So we grow plenty of each.

‘Hardneck’ varieties of garlic grow best in our cold climate. They are planted about a month before the ground freezes. That gives them just enough time to establish roots before the hard winter. They emerge once the soil gets warm next spring. Their seeds stalks, also called ‘scapes’, can be harvested by mid-June. The scapes are good in soups and stir fries. The bulbs are harvested usually on July 4th weekend.

We plant a hardneck variety of garlic named ‘German Giant’ in late October or early November. Cloves (of garlic) are planted about 6 inches (15 cm) deep. They are heavily mulched with shredded leaves, so that they survive the harsh winter that follows.

It’s important that they are planted in well- drained soil, to avoid any water becoming ice and killing the cloves. At least that’s the explanation we were given by a farmer friend when our container-planted garlic did not survive the winter, in the early years of gardening.

A bowl full of red onions, grown organically
Red onions

We can grow onions from ‘sets’ or seeds, in our climate. Sets are tiny onion bulbs that were started from seeds, harvested when very young and stored dry for the next growing season. Those are available in nurseries here. Planting them is an easy way to grow onions. However, only a few varieties are available as sets.

Starting from seeds gives a lot more choices. Seeds of so many varieties are available online. Plants grown from seeds take longer to mature, but produce larger bulbs. This year we grew ‘Ailsa Craig’ from seeds and a red variety from sets. Ailsa Craig can produce very large bulbs, though ours did not do all that well. We however were able to harvest hundreds of red onions. Started picking them as green onions, and as bulbs, throughout the season.

Two jars of pickled onion
Pickled onion

These are onions made into ‘refrigerator pickles’, not pressure canned ones. They stay unspoiled for a month or two. Pickling liquid was made from equal volume of apple cider vinegar and water, with salt mixed in. We use wide-mouthed Mason jars for refrigerator pickles.

Shallots are quite expensive to buy here. If grown from seeds, they can be produced quite cheaply. Like onions and garlic, they are very easy to grow. We had ‘Zebrune’ variety this year.

For those who are not familiar, an onion plant produces one large bulb, a garlic plant produces one bulb comprising of multiple cloves and a shallot produces a cluster of small bulbs, at the bottom.

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