Let's deal with the bad news first ... After what was a brilliant harvest last year our onions just haven't lived up to expectation!
I gave them more tender loving care than I have ever done in the past. I diligently weeded between them so they didn't have any competition from weeds and it seemed to have paid off. They swelled up and looked just great. We lifted them and I discarded any that had any signs of softness. We let them dry off and then I cleaned them up and almost polished them. Not with actual polish but they looked really smart. (It took two half days!)
Again I discarded any bulbs that hadn't seemed to dry off properly and looked as though they may rot off in storage. I say discarded but any that were usable were used up rather than storing them. But all my efforts have been in vain - we have constantly been throwing away onions that have started to rot - the race has been to use them before they went bad. Even some that looked perfect showed their true colours when cut into - and often that true colour was brown! Don't get me wrong we have had enough onions for us and my sister to use up until now, and maybe a little longer, but it's been disappointing to see them developing mould.
So what has gone wrong? - Maybe we were wrong to take them in before they had dried off properly but after the long dry season it was set to be wet so we gathered them and popped them on the greenhouse floor to dry. They seemed to dry OK but maybe they didn't cure properly. And maybe the conditions in the greenhouse were too damp to store over winter but if so where can we store them next year? - We haven't room anywhere else.
We don't seem to be the only ones who have suffered though and other sufferers haven't lifted their onions too early. Browsing the Internet - as you do when things go wrong - one tip I picked up is to cut off the tops of the onions 3 - 5cm from the bulb (trouble was it didn't say when - is it whist the tops are still green?) and turn the bulbs root plate facing upwards onto wire netting. This should be done under cover such as inside a greenhouse so any moisture drains. It said the bulbs should be given as much warmth as possible but that can't be right can it - wouldn't they cook?. Apparently it helps to blow cool air under the netting for a week or two if the weather is damp. The idea is to dry the tops as quickly as possible.
Interestingly, last week, I had a surreptitious squeeze of a supermarket onion and the top was slightly soft. Just like the onions go when they are starting to rot. So maybe the problem was the season turning damp just when the onions needed to have it dry! Maybe it wasn't our fault after all!
And to crown it all - some of our perfect onions have been nibbled by mice! I'm on the look-out for any mice with oniony breath. If I catch you mouse - watch out!
I was going to give you the good news now but I think I've gone on long enough - be patient and I'll give the good news in my next post!