So, so many alliums – Fall must be coming. (Yay!)

The shift in seasons is certainly upon us.  One week, 100º, the next week in the 70’s. Now it’s back to 90-ish. But no matter the temperatures, early Friday morning, Fall is here. We farmers start anticipating “Frost Parties”, when we’ll race to finish the last cold-sensitive crop harvests and from then on, start having another cup of tea in the mornings while we wait for it to warm up. Aaahhhh.

Our Grower’s Market booth and Farmstore are brimming over with Harvest. We’ve gone from a long summer of explaining the virtues and uses of all the strange greens we grew to trying to help sort out the big world of alliums. We kind of went over the top with allium diversity this year, adding back varieties we haven’t grown since our early years of farming. (We were obviously far ahead of our time, way back then in the early ’90’s.) So now we’re trying to deal with them all. What follows is a brief list of the alliums we grew this year, and their basic uses. If you’d like to add your insights, recipes, nutrient information, please do so in the comments. Alliums are the cornerstone for so many savory meals in the cool season, so experiment, try something new, share your ideas.

Bunch onions – whites and reds. These are mild and often used raw in salsas and salads, but also added to stir-fries and Asian soups. Not tolerant of multiple hard frosts, so their harvest will be done by mid-Fall. Get them while you can!

Sweet Onions – whites, yellows. These are great for fresh dishes – salsas, sandwiches, salads.  They’re not as pungent, are more mild, though they’ll still make you cry when chopping! They don’t store as well as the dry, hard storage types so enjoy them within a couple months of harvest.

Storage Onions – reds, yellows. These are drier and have higher levels of sulfur compounds, which makes them more pungent.  They also have a higher sugar content than sweet onions and will be more flavorful when cooked, which tames the spicy bite. The dryness and higher sulfur and sugars makes them store well, and when kept in an open container or bag in a cool dry place they should keep several months. Pull out any that start sprouting and enjoy first.

Cippolini Onions – reds and yellows.  These disc-shaped onions are a sweet treat. They’re best for roasting and baking whole, and will caramelize wonderfully. They can be difficult to peel when small-sized, but dropping in boiling water for a few moments and draining will help the skins pop off easier. Add to your favorite “roasted roots” dish or stew. They’re also a seasonal treat since they aren’t great keepers either.

Shallots – reds and yellows.  While these may look like an onion, they’re actually in their own allium family, along with so-called multiplier onions. Shallots divide like a garlic rather than form a single round bulb, with each segment crescent-shaped. Their flavor is sweet and mild, with a hint of garlic. Shallots are high in sugars, but primarily glucose and can be enjoyed by fructose-intolerant folks that often cannot tolerate onions. They are also higher in protein and vitamin C than onions. They are called out specifically in many recipes for their unique, subtle flavor.

Leeks – another onion cousin, mildly sweet and versatile, in the same family as elephant garlic and ramps. Leeks are often used in soups and stocks, but are also a fine addition to roasted vegetables, sautés and stirfries. To clean easily, slice lengthwise and rinse under running water to remove any dirt between the layers. Typically the white and pale green parts are used; the dark green sections can be bitter. They’ll hold in the field through the winter until they go to seed in the Spring.

Garlic – wow, we grew many varieties this season, continuing to expand and improve our stock for seed offerings for our fellow farmers and gardeners. Once we’ve finished sorting out all the planting stock we’ll bring along some Rocomboles, Porcelains, Stripes and Asiatics for your culinary adventures. When we’re ready to have them at our Market booths and Farmstore we’ll dive into their individual attributes.  In the meantime our Inchelium Red is available, a big-cloved, easy-peel flavorful variety that seems to work for just about everything. A favorite amongst our chefs and customers for years!

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