All posts by Mike Pearce

Summary of growing onions in San Francisco 2017 – Ailsa Craig onion

Ailsa Craig onion in fabric pot
Ailsa Craig onion in fabric pot

For a history of this story, please see the previous post on planning.

Overall growing onions in the fabric pots was fairly successful.

There was one very obvious issue though: the major temperature swings in San Francisco this summer caused many of the onions to bolt much too prematurely. Some days it was roasting hot and the next it was foggy and freezing again. This unpredictable weather made them panic and go into survival mode rather than continue growing the bulb. Once they started bolting there was no way to stop that process. I naively chopped some of the seed heads off thinking that would stop the process, but the stem just keeps growing bigger as if it still had a purpose.

The sizing of the fabric pots worked quite well. The onions that didn’t bolt grew to nearly the size of the container.  I think I started the long day onions a few months too early and that kept the size down a little. Next year I will start them in January.

The largest one I grew came in at 516 grams (1.1 lbs), and there were a couple others of a similar size. The Ailsa Craig’s can get up to 1 kilo, so these were on the low end of the good range.

I am letting a couple of the onions that bolted go through flowering  so I can collect the seeds and use them next year. They are quite beautiful.

Ailsa Craig onion weighs in at 516 grams (1.1 1b)
Ailsa Craig onion weighs in at 516 grams (1.1 1b)

Gabriella F1 Onion

I started this onion from seed in November and harvested them in June (210 days). It’s a short-day onion, grows from 3-4.5″ in diameter. I grew them in my hand made grow pots custom sized for them. They worked quite well. From this variety I got 5 full sized, 4 medium sized, and 1 runt.

Given that I live in a long day onion zone, but can grow year-round, this year I will start the short-day seeds in September, and try multiple short-day varieties, and start my long-day seeds in January.

Can’t wait to see what happens with the long day onions.

Gluten Free Bread Recipe made with Lentil (Urad) Flour

After many (mostly) delicious and nutritious experiments with leavening lentil flour to make bread, this is by far the best result. One of the ingredients, methylcellulose K4M, might seem a little unorthodox, but it makes all the difference. Methylcellulose, better known as Metamucil, has different gelling properties at different temperatures, enabling it to capture yeast bubbles to let flours that normally wouldn’t rise well, hold onto the gas and lift higher. Different types of methylcellulose have different properties, and K4M is the one that works best for gluten free baking.

One of the important steps is proofing overnight in the refrigerator. In wheat flour recipes, overnight refrigeration enhances the flavor, in lentil flour recipes, the yeast breaks the stronger flavor down and makes it taste much better.

Mix the following together in one bowl and let gel for several minutes:

Mix the following together in another bowl and let the yeast activate:

  • 1/2 c Water – 110F
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Yeast

Mix the following together in a large glass bowl, sufficient for the first rise:

Pour the gel onto the flour, and then the yeast on top of that. Mix until everything is incorporated. It will be sticky. Cover with cling film and let rise until doubled in size.

Line your baking vessel with parchment paper and scrape the dough out of the bowl and into the baking vessel. Shape the dough with a spatula, then cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 350F and transfer the dough directly from fridge to oven and bake until golden brown. Let the bread cool completely before slicing with a good serrated knife.