I had rather a disappointing crop of onions this year, and I am trying to work through in my head why that is.
Firstly, planting of the onion sets was delayed because of the prolonged cold snap in the spring. I decided to sow them in module trays to get them started, planting them out a month later when things had warmed up. I don't think they ever really recovered from this.
Secondly, because of my crop rotation (see main column), the onions were sown in what I think is the most shaded part of the veg patch, which almost certainly didn't help.
And finally, I also had one row of them growing beside my rhubarb plants, the leaves of which were sort of crowding them out. Anyway, the upshot was that we ended up with far fewer onions than normal, and the ones we have are small. I can't imagine us having onions beyond Christmas.
Thankfully, however, the shallots more than made up for it – we got a wonderful crop of them – and so last weekend, I spent an afternoon getting them ready for winter storage.
The shallots were lifted from the soil about six weeks ago and have been drying off on a bench in the potting shed since. It's important to get them really dry before storing – any moisture at all will encourage rotting later.
The next step is to get them clean – rubbing off a few outer layers of skin and dry soil. This is a great activity for an eager five-year-old girl and her dad. There's something incredibly satisfying about getting a shallot clean – from a rather grubby looking thing, a beautifully smooth, brown shallot emerges.
Next step is to get a bit of twine and tie it to make a loop – hang it from a nail at around head height and start adding the shallots, using the remaining stem on them to attach them to the twine. Search for 'onion braid' on YouTube and you will get the idea. The end product – a beautiful shallot braid – is hanging proudly (and usefully) in the kitchen.