Valley Bounty: Onions

Storage onions are harvested in August in the Valley, but many farmers continue pulling onions out of storage for sale all the way through to the beginning of spring. Meanwhile, onions are often the first crops planted into the thawing spring soil and to have transplants ready by the end of April, farmers seed their onions in greenhouses throughout March.

I recently spoke with Ray Young, owner of Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley. They explained that seeding onions often has a festive energy on the farm. “It’s exciting because the whole crew has mostly been off for the winter and a big group of us gets together … it’s still really cold outside but it’s warm in the greenhouse so we’re in there in t-shirts and sunhats.” As music blasts from the stereo, Ray and the crew fill trays with soil and then gather around a table, carefully filling soil cells with onion seeds and catching up after months apart.

While next year’s onions are germinating in propagation greenhouses, grab some storage onions to try out Ray’s quick French onion soup. Begin by peeling and slicing five onions into thin crescents. Then, heat four tablespoons of butter until bubbling, add the onions and large pinches of salt and thyme, and sauté until the onions are a deep golden brown. Add two cloves of finely chopped garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then pour in 1.5 quarts of beef broth and cook on low, covered, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut up bread into 2’’ squares and toast lightly for croutons. Once the soup is ready, ladle it into heat-proof bowls, add the croutons, cover with grated gruyere cheese, and broil for one minute. In the spirit of reuniting farm crews across the Valley, I recommend enjoying this hot soup on a cold day while swapping stories with the friends you haven’t seen all winter.

Valley Bounty is written by Noah Baustin of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)