October 31, 2002 - Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Onions helped seal Turkey PCVs' marriage

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 11 November 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: October 31, 2002 - Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Onions helped seal Turkey PCVs' marriage

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, November 05, 2002 - 5:22 pm: Edit Post

Onions helped seal Turkey PCVs' marriage

Read and comment on this story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Turkey RPCV Chris Smith and the role that onions played in his marriage to a fellow PCV at:

Good Enough To Eat: At long last, the spotlight shines on onions in this column*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Good Enough To Eat: At long last, the spotlight shines on onions in this column



WHEN I THINK of onions, two memories come to mind. One goes back to the mid-Sixties, when Ann and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Turkey. My wife-to-be was suffering through her first year there with a roommate who couldn't abide onions. I was batching it in another province a day's journey away, enjoying plenty of onions but missing female company.

It's quite possible the onion crisis persuaded Ann to marry me after our first year of service instead of observing me a while longer and keeping her options open. In any case, she cheerfully exchanged culinary anemia for the chances of married life. We're still together. Draw your own conclusions about the solidity of a marriage founded on food.

The other memory dates to 1989. Gunther Dohse, a friend and kindred spirit, was serving as Kitsap County's Master Gardener coordinator. In that capacity, he compiled a subject index of the six years of garden columns I'd written for The Sun in Bremerton and handed it to me one morning.

After allowing me a moment to express my appreciation, Dohse informed me that he'd done some preliminary analysis of the index. Among other things, it revealed that I wrote frequently about melons but never about onions. I was dismayed. After all onions had done for me! That very week I wrote a column on onions.

It occurs to me that I've also written about melons in this column but never about onions. Before anyone is tempted to look for some psychological pattern, I'll pay my respects to the bulb this week.

Onions may not have played matchmaker to many couples, but they're been enjoyed for ages. The ancient Greeks and Romans reportedly consumed quantities of them and the Egyptians even worshipped them. Today every major world cuisine claims the onion as an essential ingredient.

Plant scientists believe the onion originated in central Asia. Botanically a member of the lily family, it comes in two forms, three colors and a range of sweetness and pungency. Most varieties form bulbs, but a few, the bunching types, also known as scallions, stay slim. Take your choice of colors -- as long as they're yellow, white or red.

What seems to matter most to people though, is sweetness or pungency. The sweetest onion I ever ate was a Vidalia. It was so mild I ate it whole like an apple. At the other extreme are the yellow onions I've been cooking with lately. They're so aggressive I have to get them into a pan fast before they dissolve my chopping board.

When their few needs are met, onions grow well around Puget Sound. In case you plan to try your hand with them next spring, here are a few tips.

First, if you're raising bulbing onions, choose the long-day varieties bred for northern latitudes. Bulb formation depends on day length, and the size of the bulbs depends on the size of the plant at the onset of bulbing; the bigger the plant, the bigger the bulb. Long-day varieties spend the cooler months producing tops and the longer days of summer developing bottoms.

You can grow onions from seed, sets or plants. If you plant seed, choose an early variety and sow it by mid-April. By late summer, you should have harvest-size bulbs. Onions grown from seed and harvested the same year won't bolt. Bolting in onions is the premature formation of seed stalks, which results in undersize bulbs.

Sets, which are small bulbs produced the previous fall by crowding seeds on poor soil, bolt much more readily than plants grown from seed or transplants. The largest sets bolt most readily. One solution to the bolting problem is to alternate large and small sets as you plant and to pull the larger ones early as scallions.

Late-sweet varieties, such as Walla Walla, do best started from transplants. Many nurseries sell transplants. If you grow your own, seed indoors in February and set plants in April.

Because onions have small, shallow root systems, gardeners should pull competing weeds, fertilize frequently with small amounts placed close to the plants and water often enough to keep the soil moist. Adding compost to your onion patch will encourage root growth as well as improve the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of the soil.

Try to imagine life without onions. No onion soup; no onion rings; flat stews; pedestrian burgers; stir fries, curries and kebabs without their characteristic panache! No wonder the Egyptians were worshipful.

Chris Smith, who lives in Port Orchard, is a Master Gardener and is retired from the WSU Cooperative Extension. His columns appear in the P-I garden pages on Thursday. Send questions to P.O. Box 4426, South Colby, WA 98384-0426.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Interests - Food; COS - Turkey



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