Why onions ‘make you cry’ and how to grow them large, mild, and full of flavor.
It’s easy to assume that strong onions is down to the variety grown, but it’s actually how they are grown. What makes the tear ducts spring into action is the amount of sulphur in the onion skins, released usually when they are cut. The particles hit human eyes and sting, therefore making the tears (and swearing in some kitchens).
How to avoid tears in the kitchen
The easiest way to avoid crying over chopping onions is to use onions that are not very strong. However, this is not always the easiest to do unless you’ve grown your own in a way that creates a lovely mild vegetable. Aside, from wearing goggles when chopping, others have sworn by cutting underwater (best avoided as the knife may slip).
Grow onions by preparing the bed with a good amount of potash. The more potash around the onion, the less sulfur the growing root will absorb from the soil, resulting in a milder flavor if that is what the grower is after. This may take some seasons to establish the ‘perfect’ taste as it is very subject to the individual’s taste buds. The absorption of sulfur also keeps the bulbs smaller.
- For mild and large onions use potash
- Sulfur in the soil and fertilizers used will produce a strong-flavored and small onion
Growing your own onions from sets
Not every variety of onion is available from a set, and if the grower wishes to produce a wider variety, he or she will need to grow from seed. The really great thing about growing onions from set is simplicity. They grow very well and the varieties available as sets tend to also be disease resistant and fare well even in poor soils; a beginning gardener’s dream!
Set them 6 inches apart 1 1/2 inches down, and in rows about 9 inches apart. Grow as with the seed onions after the thinning stage.
Growing onions from seed
Growing from seed may be a little more difficult, but it often results in onions that can store better through the winter. The biggest advantage is cost and if grown well, a high yield.
Sow thinly in rows of prepared soil about 9 inches apart. It is important to not sow them too deeply, but just under the surface of the soil. Beware of Onion fly and when the seeds have germinated, thin them so they are about 6 inches apart (unless the aim is to get many smaller onions like shallots).
From here, it’s just keeping them watered, weeded and fed (don’t forget the potash rule!)
Harvest them when their foliage is starting to bend (and before they bolt/go to seed) by gently lifting them with a fork and then lay them out to dry for a couple of weeks. Once dry, use the foliage to braid them and hang them in the kitchen, or just put them in an onion storage bag and remove the rotten ones if any appear.
Now enjoy cutting into those flavorful onions without fear of the tear.