In this issue...
  • Onions of the Month
  • From Our Friends
  • Around the Farm
  • Cooking With Onions
  • Q&A: Bulbing
  • Fun Onion Facts
  • Send Us Your Product Reviews!
  • About Dixondale Farms

  • Affiliations
    Bolting in Onions and Leeks April 2010

    Bruce & Wife Dear Fellow Gardener,

    Anyone who has ever had a serious vegetable garden has encountered bolting -- that is, the tendency of a plant to send up a flower or seed stalk well before it should, usually in response to environmental stress. Once this occurs, development usually stops, and the bolted onions will not store well.

    Bolting in Alliums
    Bolting can be a problem with onions, leeks, and related species, and generally occurs in response to cold weather stress. Sustained temperatures of less than 45º F may result in bolting with as few as five leaves present. If the temperature falls below 50º F for two weeks or more, mature plants with 7-10 leaves will bolt. A cold, wet spring followed by a hot summer can also result in bolting.

    Critical Periods
    The transplants you receive from Dixondale Farms usually have four leaves; the fifth will appear out of the center of the onion about four weeks after transplanting. Larger transplants tend to be more susceptible to bolting, since they reach this critical period sooner.

    Besides planting time, onions and leeks also face a critical period about two months later, as the plant sends out more leaves. Cool weather during either of these periods may trick your plants into thinking they've gone through the two growing seasons necessary for them to completely mature. The result is the premature development of a seed stalk.

    How to Avoid Bolting
    There are several things you can try to avoid bolting. First of all, match the proper onion variety with your growing region, particularly in terms of day-length. Next, do your best to plant your onion plants at the proper time. You can't control the weather, but your plants are least likely to bolt if you get them in at the right time. Be careful not to over-fertilize, too, because overly vigorous growth may result in bolting. So can soil that is too loose; if the plant thinks the ground has been disturbed, it may respond by trying to spread its seed.

    Dealing With Plants That Have Bolted
    The development of flower stalks and seeds supersedes bulb development in onions and leeks, so the bulb simply isn't going to develop any further. You might as well pull it up and enjoy it while you can. You can't store bolted bulbs, either, because the seed stalk exits the top of the bulb, weakening it and leaving a place where infection can set in.

    We hope this helps you with the bolting issue. Be careful with your planting date, onion type, soil and fertilizers, and pull and eat any onions or leeks as soon as they bolt. If you have any questions on the subject that we haven't covered here, don't hesitate to ask!

    Happy growing,

    Bruce "Onionman" Frasier

    red torpedo Onions of the Month
    Italian Specialty Onions

    This month, we thought we'd shine the spotlight on our most unusual specialty varieties. All three of these onions are Italian in origin, and all are fun to grow. They're great for Farmer's Markets!

    Red Torpedo Tropea is a tasty, sweet red long-day onion that hails from Tropea, Italy. The region is well known for its locally grown red onions and exquisite cooking (due to the onions, of course!). This oddly long, thin onion has a three-month storage potential, and takes 110 days to grow to harvest size.

    We think you'll like the mild yellow Borettana Cippolini "mini-onion," which is great for shish-kabobs. It rarely grows much larger than two inches across, and the size can be limited even further, if you want, by planting them closer together. This is a long-day variety, taking about 110 days to grow to harvest, and has a five-month storage potential. And did we mention that it's really flat?

    When it comes to beauty, it's hard to beat the Red Marble Cippolini. Slice into the interior, and you get a marbled pattern that's pretty much unique. This slightly pungent, long-day specialty is nearly as flat as the Borettana, and also makes a good shish-kabob or pearl onion. It takes just 90 days to mature, and stores for up to five months.

    MacKenzie with Onions From Our Friends

    Here's a message we recently received from our friend Sandi Forrey of Stone Wall Farms in Lincoln, Maine, a vegetable farm operated by Al Fugazzi:

    "Al has been in the vegetable growing business in Lincoln for approximately 20 years. He prides himself in growing and producing a great product for his customers and his success over the years is a testament to his hard work and his dedication to the local economy.

    "While working this past summer, I had the opportunity to take a few pictures of some of the workers and also the vegetables that he grows. Had a good year in spite of the weather and I thought I would share with you some of the onions that he grew and maybe take a chance on being featured in your online photo album, newsletter or catalog.

    The onions in the pictures that I have attached are the Ailsa Craig variety, and the young lady's name is MacKenzie. This was her first year picking vegetables and she was very impressed with the size of the onions, compared to the ones her mom buys in the supermarket.

    "I thoroughly enjoyed your web site and looking at all the great pictures!"

    We love hearing from you! Send us your favorite "onion photo" and we'll try to include it in a future newsletter, our next catalog or our online Photo Album. Click here for details on how to submit your photos.

    Basilio Campos Around the Farm

    Back in April 2008, our farm foreman, Basilio Campos, was featured in the very first "Around the Farm" section of our newsletter, as part of an article written by Farm Bureau magazine's Bobby Horecka. Basilio has been with us now for 46 years! As Bruce was quoted as saying about him, "He's my right hand man. I don't know what I'd do without him."

    Well, we still feel that way -- but all good things must come to an end. Even the hardest workers have to retire someday, and Basilio is ready to take a well-deserved rest. We can't tell you how much he's done for the farm over the years, or how much we're going to miss him around here. Here's to you, Basilio!

    And one more thing: we recently had another big event at the farm. Last week we celebrated Bruce's birthday, as we do every April, with a pizza party and chocolate cake!

    Cooking With Onions
    Caramelized Orange Blossom Onions (Oignons caramelisés à la fleur d'oranger)

    This Moroccan-inspired dish comes to us from a customer. It's a great accompaniment for grilled chicken or fish. Don't be put off by the flavor combination; you'll be amazed at how good it smells and tastes!

    • 1.5 lbs. of long onions, such as our Red Torpedoes, peeled and halved lengthwise, retaining part of the root to hold the halves together
    • 1 tablespoon of sugar
    • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
    • A few grindings of black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
    • A dash of orange zest (grated orange peel)
    • The juice of two small oranges
    • 1.5 tablespoons of orange blossom water
    • Mint sprigs (optional)

    Heat the oil slowly over medium heat, in a skillet large enough to hold all the onions in a single layer. Then add the onions, sprinkling them with the pepper, salt, and sugar. Cover the skillet and allow the onions to cook, stirring periodically, until the sugar begins to caramelize.

    Next, add enough water to cover the onions about halfway, then bring them to a simmer. Cover the skillet partially, allowing the liquid to reduce to about half a cup, turning the onions occasionally. Add the orange juice and continue to simmer until it is reduced to a glaze, then remove the skillet from the heat. Finally, add the orange water, trying to keep the onion halves as intact as you can.

    Store the cooked onions in a refrigerator until use. Sprinkle on the orange zest, use the mint to decorate the dish, and serve.

    Onions can enhance so many dishes, from simple salads to complex entrees; and they can also be consumed raw, fried, sautéed or baked. We periodically receive sumptuous recipe suggestions from our employees and from you, our customers. We want to share one with you each month, so that you can take full advantage of the fruits of your labor! If you have one you would like us to print, please email it to us at

    Q&A: Bulbing

    Q. When do onions bulb?

    A. If you plant your onions shallow (just 1/2 to 1 inch deep), it'll be easy to tell when your onions begin to bulb: they'll start cracking the ground around the bulb as they start shoving the dirt away. If you plant them too deep, you won't be able to realize this -- and the onions will produce smaller bulbs, since the soil will restrict the expansion of the bulb.

    Fun Onion Facts

    Ever wonder why cutting or peeling an onion can make you cry? Well, it's more complicated than you might think. A chemical called Lachrymatory-factor synthase is released when an onion is cut, converting amino acids in the onion called sulfoxides into sulfenic acid, which degrades into something called syn-propanethial-S-oxide. This chemical then wafts into your eyes, where it irritates the tear glands and makes you cry.

    Send Us Your Product Reviews!

    In addition to sending us recipes and photos of your onions, we encourage you to give us feedback on our products. You'll find a "write your own review" link on every product page. Don't be shy -- we need your opinions!

    About Dixondale Farms

    As the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the U.S., Dixondale Farms offers a wide selection of top-quality, disease-free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see our complete product line, request a catalog, or for growing tips and cultural information, visit our Web site by clicking here.

    Whether you're planting one bunch or thousands of acres, we're committed to your success. If you have either questions or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach us from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Time at 877-367-1015, or e-mail us any time at

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