Mary's Veggie Garden

January 31, 2012

Onions Compared: Copra vs. Patterson

Filed under: Gardening,Onions,Root Cellar,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:35 pm
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Onions drying 3 days after harvest: L-R Copra, Cipollini & Patterson

Copra and Patterson are both hard, yellow storage onions.  The catalogue describes these two hybrid onions as similar in hardness and storage qualities but with Patterson being slightly larger than Copra.

Here is how they compared in my garden.


2011 Number Harvested Weight of Harvest Average Size Ounces  Storage Quality
Copra F1 79 13.75# 2.8 oz.  Excellent
Patterson F1 82 19.5# 3.8 oz  Very good

The numbers say it all: Patterson produces a bigger onion than Copra when grown in identical conditions. Both varieties produce onions with a range of sizes and the smaller Patterson onions are the same size as the larger Copra’s.


To me, Patterson and Copra taste about the same. I’ve enjoyed them lightly sautéed and stir-fried,  and roasted whole in the oven.

Copra onions from storage 1/26


Copra is the clear winner.  None of my Copras have sprouted yet, though a couple of the Patterson have sprouted. Even though sprouting is not a big problem with Patterson, it is not keeping as well as Copra. The depressed areas in the picture below indicates something is going wrong under the skin and the picture of the peeled onions shows the problem.

Patterson onions from storage 1/26

Patterson onions from storage

I can’t blame this problem on my less than ideal storage conditions, because the Patterson onions were showing signs of this problem back in October and November.  A couple of the Copras may have the same problem, but almost all the Patterson onions are affected.

Growing Method

Onions in the garden 6/25/2011

3/6/2011 Started seed, indoors, under lights

4/14, 4/15 Transplanted Copra 4/14 and Patterson 4/15 into opposite sides of the same bed at Vassar Farm, separated by a row of red onions. Mulched with shredded leaves. Watered when needed with a soaker hose looped through the bed.

7/31 Harvested, then dried.

Root Cellar Storage

After curing, the onions were stored in old mesh onion bags hanging from nails in the basement. After the outside temperature dropped below the inside temperature, sometime around mid-November, I moved the onions into the ‘root cellar’, whose temperature drops much lower than the basement.

Because I don’t have any way to hang the bags in the root cellar, I piled a bag of Copra and a bag of Patterson together in a plastic 5-gallon bucket. My intent was to leave the lid ajar by a couple of inches, but  I’ve forgotten occasionally, and the humidity in the bucket got high enough for the Copra onions to start growing roots. This has not yet affected their keeping ability.

The lower temperature in the root cellar has been good for the Copra onions. Last year many of them were sprouting by Feb. 1, but this year, with lower temperatures, there is no sprouting.

January 9, 2012

Medlar Harvest

Filed under: Fruit,Gardening,Medlar — marysveggiegarden @ 12:20 pm
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Medlar fruit in mid-August

The four-year old Medlar tree in the Edible Landscape (EL) provided its first big harvest  November 2001. Yes, we harvested Nov. 9, after several frosts and freezes, and after ‘Snowtober’ an unusual storm that dumped 2′ of snow on the EL 10/29/11. Mid-November was the perfect harvest time, as the cold temperatures provided the rough treatment necessary to eventually soften the fruit.

At harvest time the medlar fruit was still rock hard but it softened up in 3-4 weeks. This process is called ‘bletting’. Once soft, the fruit tastes a bit like spicy apple sauce. Any parts that remain hard or dry taste like dry cardboard.

Each fruit is about 1.5″ across by 1″ deep.  The fruit is actually somewhat concave and a fully formed fruit contains five seeds roughly the size of an apple seed so there isn’t much to the edible part.

Close up of medlar fruit on 11/20/11 - still not soft enough to eat.

Our harvest was probably a couple of pounds. I gave most of the best fruit to others working in the gardens as not one of us had ever eaten a medlar. Unfortunately I was left with the worst fruit for photography.

In the picture to the left, the round plump fruits are the good ones. The ones on the right, somewhat deformed, never softened up. About 1/3 of the harvest was deformed. I’m guessing that problem was either poor pollination (the fruits I checked had only 1-2 seeds) or insect damage. Japanese beetles love this tree and may have damaged fruit forming during July, even though 2011 was not a particularly bad year for Japanese beetles in the EL.

Peeled medlar and seeds from a second fruit.

What is inside of a medlar? I peeled this fruit from the stem end. The seeds are in the opposite end. The two seeds are from another fruit. As you can see (click to enlarge the picture), the fruit fibers cling to the seed. This particular medlar was dry and not worth eating. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of a good fruit: I’d already eaten mine.

For better pictures, a recipe, and a fascinating essay on medlars in literature see The Art and Mystery of Food.

What does a medlar tree look like?

The medlar is  a smallish tree. The tree in the EL is probably at or near its mature size. All these pictures are the variety ‘Breda Giant’. The tree is planted about 20′ from the south wall of the building. The brick absorbs a lot of sun so this is a very warm location.

We’ve also noticed that the tree has been growing away from the building. This is obvious if you enlarge the August 2011 photo: the slope of the trunk is visible as a diagonal in the lower right corner. The October snow storm bent the medlar tree nearly to the ground. Harvest was easy, but we had to stake up the tree afterwards.

May 2008 Medlar in its nursery pot.

May 2009

May 2010

August 2011

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