|Double or Split Onion Bulbs||April 2011|
By now, many of you have already received and planted your onion plants. We hope you're off to a good start, and we wish you great success with this year's crop!
This issue is devoted to "splits" or double onions, an occurrence that most growers prefer to avoid. Although split onions are perfectly edible and can be enjoyed in any onion dish, they are often discounted at market. If you prefer to avoid them, here are a few tips.
Causes of Splits
Splits may be caused by several factors, mostly cultural and environmental; but their development is also influenced by genetics, with some varieties just being more susceptible to splitting. For example, some red onion varieties will produce a higher percentage of splits if grown at wider spacings. The same is true of sweet Spanish onions, which prefer slightly crowded conditions.
Even when plants are grown closer together, doubling may still occur. Uneven watering is believed to influence double formation, especially when the soil is left dry too long. Temperature fluctuations (particularly below 20 degrees F) may be a factor as well. Planting onions too deep can also encourage doubling, as can fertilizing at a rate that produces large yields.
Varieties prone to doubling will vary depending on where you live (your County Extension agent can help), but here are some general tips. Transplant them a bit later to minimize the chance of splitting. Be sure not to plant them too far apart, and to plant them no more than about an inch deep; when planted shallow, onions will grow to be longer and narrower, less likely to split.
We make every attempt to "weed out" the doubles in the plants we send you, and make up for any that might occur by sending a few more plants than you order. This is one reason why the transplants you get are small, since the bigger they are, the more likely they are to double or split. But you should keep in mind that a certain percentage of onions are going to split no matter what you do.
If you notice that an onion has split during the growth process and this troubles you, just pull it up and enjoy it in your dinner salad!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
|Onions of the Month |
Red Zeppelin and Candy
This month, we feature two of our favorite red onions: the fabulous Red Zeppelin and Candy hybrids.
We've been receiving excellent feedback on Red Zeppelin! This dark red, globe-shaped long day storage onion, which is ideal for those of you in the middle and northern tier states, offers a rich flavor and intense red rings throughout when left to grow to full maturity. You can expect some sizable onions, too, as you can see in the picture. This slightly pungent hybrid can easily reach four inches, and will store safely for 6-8 months. It takes 110 days to reach harvest.
This is the most popular onion variety we offer, and one of the largest! A mild onion that was originally bred for intermediate-day regions, the delicious, well-named actually grows well just about everywhere in the country. It's a great choice for beginning gardeners, easily growing as large as six inches. This variety has a storage potential of three full months (as if your onions will last that long!), and takes about the same amount of time (90 days) from planting to harvest.
To give as many customers as possible a chance to enter our photo contest, we'll continue to accept photo submissions throughout the onion growing and harvesting season. The first winner will be announced in our June issue, and we'll continue to select and announce winners for the remainder of the year.
Here's a quick rundown of the rules:
- The contest will run from June 2011 to September 2011, and you may submit one photo per month.
- All onions displayed must be grown during the November 2010- August 2011 season.
- One winner will be chosen each month.
- Each month's winner will receive a Dixondale cap and a Dixondale camo T-shirt (modeled in the picture above), and will be featured in the next month's newsletter as well as on our Facebook page and Web site.
- A Grand Prize winner will be chosen from the past monthly winners to grace the cover of the 2012 Dixondale Farms Catalog, and we'll feature a bio in the November 2011 newsletter and on our Web site and Facebook page.
- The Grand Prize judging will be held in-house, with Dixondale holding all rights to the pictures.
To send us your contest photos, just click here. We can't wait to see 'em!
| Around The Farm|Our Social Media
We've been publishing this newsletter for a while now, but the new trend for all of us here at Dixondale Farms is the use of social media such as Facebook and YouTube. Our customers are now able to keep up with the season by following us on these outlets, which you can link to from this very newsletter!
We're especially excited about the possibilities offered by YouTube. We can have Bruce video the farm in the morning, and as soon as he gets to the office, he has it posted! We direct you, for example, to this view of onions maturing in the field. And in this video, Bruce shows you how to apply your onion fertilizer. Now, keep in mind that these videos are filmed in the onion fields, so you may occasionally hear the wind in the background.
We have many more videos to come!
|Cooking With Onions|
Reader Bill Fuller of Ottawa, Illinois recently sent us this helpful suggestion:
"One of my favorite ways to fix my onions is to bake them in the microwave with the skins on, just like you would a potato. Stick them with a fork to be sure they are tender, then let them cool until you can handle them. Next, remove the skins and slice the onions, put them in a covered dish, add vinegar and oil, and keep them in the refrigerator for a day or two. Very good side dish."
That does sound tasty. Thank you, Bill!
Onions can enhance so many dishes, and can be consumed raw, fried, sautéed or baked. Please send us your favorite onion recipe, so we can share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can email it to us here. Digital photos of your dish are also welcome!
Q. How do I know when it's time to harvest my onions?
A. When the tops of the onions turn brown or yellow and fall over, it's time to harvest. Ideally, the plant will have about 13 leaves at this point. Pull the onions early in the morning on a sunny day, and dry the onions in the sun for two days. To prevent sunscald, lay the tops of one row over the bulbs of another.
|Fun Leek Facts|
This month, our focus is on leeks! While leeks may not be as popular in the States as onions, their popularity here is growing rapidly, and they've been relished throughout Europe for over a thousand years. Not only are leeks the national emblem of Wales, they're one of the main ingredients of the famous Irish dish known as cock-a-leekie soup (along with chicken, of course). If you've never tried them, leeks have a subtler, sweeter, more refined taste than onions.
Modern domestic leeks are apparently native to the Mediterranean region, having been cultivated there for more than 3,000 years. They're one of the foods mentioned in the Bible that the Children of Israel greatly missed after they escaped from Egypt. They're related to asparagus, and have in fact been called "the poor man's asparagus." In French, their common name, poireau, translates to "simpleton." No one is sure why.
Wild leeks, known as ramps (Allium tricoccum), are stronger in aroma and flavor, and have been credited with giving the city of Chicago its name. The site's original name, Shikaakwa, basically means "stinky onions" in the Algonquian tongue of the original Chicago natives.
|We're on Facebook! |
Join the community of friends and growers on our Facebook page! You can connect with us and fellow growers to share stories, recipes, and even weather information and other tips. We encourage you to add your pictures and growing stories, and to leave something on our Wall.
By the way, check out our YouTube videos! We've been posting links to them on the Facebook Wall. One of our latest entries is a recent overview of the maturing crop. Please take a look!