Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oca aeroponics experiment and the difference between shallots and potato onions

With a couple of days of gale force hot winds my vegetables, especially the corn, is looking a bit tortured. The stress of hot weather tends to build up in plants so I can't see them getting better anytime soon. Oh well, that is how it goes. It will be nice to get a cooler day tomorrow.

 After noticing last year that oca cuttings were happy to make tubers in a glass of water I have decided to do a little experiment to see how they produce in an aeroponics situation. Aeroponics is sort of like hydroponics in the way that there is no soil medium, but instead of the roots always being in water they are suspended in moist air instead.
I decided on this because I didn't want to go to the expense of buying a pump.

I will loosely fill the 15cm tube with coir fibre to hold moisture in the air but no so full as to restrict tuber formation.

Each week I will fill the tube with fertilised water, like a hydroponics system, but them let it flow out so only the coir is moist.
I will be putting the pipe together and cutting holes in it tomorrow. It is one metre long so I will be able to fit three plants in it.

My first ripe tomato - a Green Zebra. I had it on a sandwich today. It is so good to not have to eat supermarket tomatoes.

Ok, I have been researching the difference between the dividing/multiplier onions known as shallots and potato onions.
There are many different views on the subject and I have come to the conclusion that I will refer to them all as shallots from now on, as botanists do - I can see no difference between them. They are all the same species after all, Allium cepa var. aggregatum.

Some people say that shallots are smaller than potato onions but that has not rung true with mine, and some say that potato onions flower and shallots do not, but they all do for me - I think that 'shallots' flower when the conditions are right, and some flower under all conditions and some under specific conditions.
One site even suggested that shallots have two 'eyes' and potato onions have one but from my observations it depends on the stage of division when they mature and dry.
In the picture above I have two onions named as potato onion and one shallot (and one perennial leek) can you tell from looking at them? I think not, and if you did guess based on shape I reckon you would be wrong.

Another thing that bugs me is that there are no names for varieties in Australia - there are red shallots, and golden shallots and brown potato onions etc. With people not breeding new varieties it is time these got names so there is no confusion later on.
Talk about colour confusion - the 'brown potato onion' in the picture above is actually red and the pink shallot above has pink skin if you pull it just before it is totally died down (and keeps the pink colour during storage) but is brown when fully died down (and then stays brown during storage). Colour naming sucks.

After harvesting my beds I did a small taste test. All the multiplier onions/shallots tasted the same and were strong and harsh when raw but the perennial leek was mild and sweet, just what I like. I didn't bother with a cooked test at this time. I didn't pull my walking onions as they are not ready yet, and I still have to select with my Green Mountain onions so a taste test was not going to reveal anything as they are so variable.

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