Mary's Veggie Garden

February 16, 2015

Onions in Storage: Cabernet, Cortland, and Copra

Filed under: Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:23 am

Currently I have three onion varieties, Cabernet, Cortland, and Copra, which I’ve stored in the basement since their harvest last August. Last week I needed lots of onions for a big batch of bean soup, so I took some photographs to show how well each is storing.

2/9 - oops, one of the Copras has a sprout.

2/9/14 – oops, one of the Copras has a sprout.

Copra is the gold standard for onion storage, thus this sizable sprout surprised me.

Both Copras are drying and forming a new layer of skin.

All the onions continue to dry and form new skin.

Slicing the onions open reveals that both the Cabernet and the Cortland are forming sprouts, as shown by their greenish-yellow centers. The other Copra still looks dormant.

I’ve grown Cabernet for several years and my experience is that they will sprout before Copra. I’ve been using them for all my cooking since early December and they’ve had green centers since mid-January but so far only a couple have actually sprouted.

Both the Cabernet and the Cortland onions have sprouts forming.

Both the Cabernet and the Cortland onions have sprouts forming.

I grew the Cortland and Cabernet, starting them from seed 3/8/14. They were transplanted into my garden at Vassar Farm May 7&8, much later than usual, because snow melt (and other delays) meant the community plots were not available sooner. Cabernet is an early onion; its harvest finished 8/8, just before I started harvesting Cortland.

The Copras were a gift from my garden neighbor. His mail-order onion plants were transplanted a few days after mine and we harvested at the same time. When he offered a hand-full of Copras I took them so I could do this comparison.

Cortland onions drying in a shaded area of my deck Aug. 20, 2014.

Cortland onions drying in a shaded area of my deck Aug. 20, 2014.

The Cortland onions were medium to very large and the largest had thick necks. Several thick-necked Cortlands show in the picture above.  Thick necks don’t dry well, so the onions don’t store well. I used the big, thick-necked Cortlands first, in Chili for the freezer.

When I bag up the onions for storage, I give each a good sniff. Any that have a smell won’t store well. Fully half the Cortlands went into a bag labeled ‘Use Me First’  but very few of the Cabernet onions joined them.

Which stores better? Overall I think Copra is still the winner, but Cortland is a close second. Remember that half the Cortlands did not go into long-term storage. But that also happened with some of my neighbor’s Copras which were also huge and thick-necked.

Cabernet onions are dependably thin-necked. They don’t store quite as long, but almost all of them can be stored.

For the record – the area of my basement where the onions, potatoes, carrots & celeriac are stored is currently at 39°F near the floor and 42°F  three feet above the floor. That is excellent for storing root crops.

The temperature outside is -10°F (-23°C) as I write. I think this is the coldest day we’ve had in a decade; however when I was growing up (a half century ago), there were a hand-full of days every winter when we walked the half mile to the school bus stop in below zero temperatures. My yard resembles Norma’s . My raspberries still need pruning, but my garden gate has been frozen shut since mid-January; but that doesn’t matter now because only the tips of the brambles show through the snow.

Eventually spring will come, probably faster than any of us expects. I start teaching Vegetable Gardening A-Z this Friday, and maybe by the time I get to Root Cellaring  five weeks from now, I’ll be able to excavate the Lutz beets currently buried under 2′ of snow.

If any of you live in Dutchess County, please join me on a trip through warm, sunny gardens past. Details are under Vegetable Gardening A-Z on the right side bar.

February 9, 2015

Tomato: Crimson Carmello

Filed under: Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:29 am

Last summer (2014) I had the opportunity to grow a Crimson Carmello tomato plant. Wow! That was one impressive plant. The plant was very healthy, therefore it retained most of its foliage, grew enormous and set loads of fruit. I harvested more than 22 pounds of tomatoes from the single plant and some of the fruit wasn’t weighed.

Crimson Carmello: heavy fruit set on healthy plants

9/4 Crimson Carmello: heavy fruit set on healthy plants

The seed was purchased from Renee’s Gardens and grown in the Locust Grove greenhouse. Plants were given to volunteers in the LG historic vegetable gardens for planting at home. The seed packet says Crimson Carmello is a “French variety renowned for exquisite taste. Disease resistant and productive.”  Resistant to Fusarium, Verticillium, Nematodes and TVM virus. 70 days.

ON 5/29 I transplanted Crimson Carmello into one of the sunniest parts of my home garden, a spot that gets the sun from about 10AM – 6PM. I gave it a 5′ high cage of concrete reinforcing wire. This was the right choice – the plant never stopped growing.

The Crimson Carmello plant is the big one in the center.

9/4 The Crimson Carmello plant is the big one in the center.

Here we see Crimson Carmello with its companions in early September. In the left foreground is a Megabite, a short determinate plant suffering from Septoria leaf spot. Crimson Carmello fills the center of the picture, extending a foot or more beyond it’s 5′ cage. Click the picture to see it full sized – you’ll notice some of the lower fruit is netted as protection against chipmunks. There is a paste tomato (Martino’s Plum) barely visible behind Crimson Carmello.

I manage my indeterminate tomatoes by pinching off 1 or 2 of the lowest suckers and letting the rest grow. I remove diseased foliage when I see it.  However, I did not remove much foliage from the Megabite – because it is indeterminate there would not have been much left – but that was a bad decision as Megabite served as a source of Septoria infection. However Megabite did provide a strong test for Septoria resistance in the Crimson Carmello. I should have pulled out the entire Megabite plant as soon as I discovered its tomatoes did not have much flavor.

Disease resistance: I was not able to test Crimson Carmello’s advertised disease resistance; thankfully I don’t have those problems in my garden. My garden does have Early Blight, Septoria, and by the end of October 2014, Late Blight.  Crimson Carmello occasionally got a touch of Early Blight; there is an infected leaf in the picture below, lower left corner. I snipped off those leaves and Early Blight remained an occasional minor problem.

Crimson Carmello showed what one seed catalog would call ‘Intermediate resistance’ to Septoria.  There were two sources of active Septoria – the Megabite plant next to Crimson Carmello and a Sungold plant about 10′ away. I was continuously removing Septoria infected leaves from the Sungold. Crimson Carmello resisted the Septoria until October when the oldest foliage started showing leaf spots. This was the same time my Jasper plant became infected. (Jasper is advertised with “Intermediate resistance to early blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, fusarium races 1 & 2, and late blight.”)  By this time several of my other tomato varieties were decimated by Septoria.

Late Blight: Crimson Carmello was not resistant to Late Blight which arrived late October. But I didn’t feel bad about removing entire infected branches because frost was around the corner. Some of the fruit on Jasper got infected but its foliage seemed resistant.

Crimson Carmello - green shoulders

Crimson Carmello

Fruit: The first Crimson Carmello fruit was harvested 80 days after transplanting. This longer than advertised maturity is typical in my garden because of the shade. Crimson Carmello tomatoes weigh 6-10 ounces. About half had ‘yellow shoulders’. The flavor was good and similar to the flavor I associate with hybrids, not heirlooms.  I preferred them sliced in sandwiches, though they were juicy enough that the slices made sandwich eating a messy operation. For snack eating I preferred Jasper and Sungold. The total Crimson Carmello harvest was over 22 pounds. Most of them went into chili where their juiciness was an advantage.

BTW Netting the tomato fruit does prevent chipmunk nibbling. Unfortunately the netting also reduces air circulation around the fruit which encourages the growth of a fungal disease called tomato anthracnose.  Crimson Carmello was a dense plant and would have benefited from better air circulation and more sun. Now that I know the plant, I’ll be proactive and remove a bit more foliage from the center of the plant.

This year I’m thinking of growing only Crimson Carmello and Jasper in my home garden. I’m hoping I can stop the cycle of Septoria infection by planting only resistant varieties for a year or two.

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