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.

Yield

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.

Flavor

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

Storage

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.

March 26, 2010

Eating from the Garden in Winter: Sweet Potatoes

Filed under: Gardening,Root Cellar,Sweet Potatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:51 am
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Although I’ve been growing vegetables for decades, I did not plant sweet potatoes until 2005. I never suspected that sweet potatoes could be grown in New York State. Indeed, they grow quite easily. They also store quite well; they are excellent keepers.

Sweet potatoes from storage 3/21/2010

The trick to storing sweet potatoes is to cure them properly. Curing changes the potatoes’ starch to sugar and allows any cut areas to heal over. The standard directions for curing say to keep the sweet potatoes in a very warm place with high humidity for a couple weeks after harvest.

Typical conditions in the Hudson Valley during October harvest are cool and dry with 50% humidity, far from the ideal for curing sweet potatoes. I tried to compensate by keeping them at room temperature in very high humidity for a longer time.  I  piled some potatoes in a huge bowl covered with a towel to keep in the humidity. The rest went into covered plastic storage containers. I kept bowl and containers in the kitchen for about 6 weeks to cure the potatoes.

Results: the towel covered bowl worked well. After curing some of the potatoes had tiny nubbins of new sprouts. The lids of the plastic containers kept the humidity too high. Most of those potatoes had grown tiny slips with baby leaves. These nubbins and slips are at the top of the potatoes in the picture. Both methods produced sweet SPs that have stored well.

After curing, the sweet potatoes can be stored in a place with lower temperature and humidity. Mine are stored in a single layer on shelves in my unheated basement.

Eating: use small or damaged sweet potatoes first. Long slender sweet potatoes tend to dry out during storage. At harvest some sweet potatoes had skin that is partially black. (I haven’t figured out the cause.) Those potatoes are still edible and they will keep 3-4 months, but around February – March these black skinned potatoes got dry rot. The left potato in the photo has dry rot on the bottom so I removed the bottom third before cooking.

Last fall so many of my sweet potatoes were split, cracked or otherwise damaged that we are still eating the damaged potatoes in late March. The potatoes continued to sweeten over the winter and are now quite sweet.

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