|Evaluating New Onion Varieties||August 2012|
In order to provide you with the top choices and varieties of onions, we need to stay on top of market changes. So each year, we travel to onion growing regions to review performance of new trials. Plus, we consider feedback from you, our most valuable resource, on how our onions are growing around the country! Here are some of the categories we evaluate annually.
We require at least an 85% germination rate for any of the seed produced. If the rate starts falling below that standard, some seed companies may discontinue that stock. We don't want to promote a variety that will be pulled out of production because of low germination.
Day Length and Days to Maturity
Because we supply the entire nation with onion plants, we look for the following to suit all growing zones:
Short-Day Onions, which start the bulbing process when the day-length reaches 10-12 hours.
Intermediate-Day Onions, which start the bulbing process when day-length reaches 12-14 hours.
Long-Day Onions, which start the bulbing process when day-length reaches 14-16 hours.
Color isn't just about red, white, or yellow, but also about the different shades of yellow and red. Yellow onions are the most popular in all their shades, and represent about 87% of U.S. production of onions. Red comprises about 8%, white 5%. Red onions come in a variety of hues; dark red and purple varieties are generally better keepers, while bright red varieties are generally sweeter. A dark-skinned "brown" onion is usually a better storage onion and will not sunburn as easily as other varieties.
Resistance to Bolting and Disease
Resistance to bolting is important, because if an onion bolts (produces seed stalks or flowers), bulb development ceases, and the onion must be picked immediately. Resistance to diseases like pink root and fusarium are critical in varietal development, particularly if onions have been grown in an area for several years.
Onion shape affects sweetness and pungency, storage time and best kitchen uses. A flat onion is generally only 2-3" tall, like the Cippolinis and Bermudas. This mild, sweet variety is great for roasting and caramelizing. Globe-shaped onions are like softballs, and include Candy, Spanish and storage types. Pungent globes have long shelf lives and are tasty in soups, stews and main dishes. The "deep flat" Granex is a combination of the flat and globe onions, and is wonderful in salads and stir fry dishes.
Pungency and Storability
Pungency goes hand-in-hand with storability. Sweeter onions have shorter storage times, while pungent ones last longer. This has to do with water content. The more water an onion contains, the shorter the storage time.
The More You Know...
We hope this article has supplied you with a little insight on the criteria we use to choose our onion varieties. At Dixondale, we give careful consideration to overall performance and individual features, so you can grow the best-tasting, highest quality onions possible. This occasionally means discontinuation of a favorite variety. But rest assured, we'll always find you great tasting, long-lasting replacements!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
P.S. Call for Photos!
We'd like to remind you folks that we love receiving your photographs, and sharing them in our catalog, newsletters, and other publications. Please send us photos of your Dixondale onion crops along with basic information like your name, location, type of onions, and any comments you want to add. You just might see them online or in print before long!
Product of the Month
The best way to store onions is in mesh netting like the kind pictured here. Simply drop in an onion, tie a knot above it, drop in another, and continue the process until the netting is full. Hang it up in a cool, dry place, and you're sitting pretty.
Your onions will be safe and fresh until you need them. Whenever you want an onion, simply cut above the bottommost knot and take the onion that drops off. It's easy as pie, keeps the onion well-ventilated, and doesn't let disease (if any) travel from onion to onion like some storage methods can.
From Our Friends
Wow! Check out Jenna Wendt's crop of Kansas-grown Ailsa Craig onions from the 2011 growing season. That bright yellow ball in front of the stack is a regulation softball. So not only did she get a big crop, the onions themselves are huge!
Got some onion-related photos to share? Send them to us here, and you just might see your photo in a future newsletter!
|Around The Farm |This and That
Now that we've finished up this year's cantaloupe crop and work hasn't started yet on onion planting, we're in our "post harvest" mode. But we're staying busy with several projects throughout Dixondale. Last month, we told you about our new cooler shed; but we're also adding more office space, and adding on to the packing shed to provide for more storage space.
Not only that, we're getting things together for the 2013 season to celebrate our 100-year anniversary. Believe it or not, in a few months Dixondale Farms will have been going strong for a full century. Needless to say, we're looking forward to providing you with the world's best onion plants for another hundred years at least!
|Cooking With Onions|
- 1 cup lentils
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 medium onion, minced
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
Simmer lentils in 3 cups water with 1 teaspoon of salt 35 minutes, until tender. Drain. In small bowl, mix oil, vinegar, onion, pepper and mustard. Toss with lentils while they are hot. Refrigerate and when cool, mix in the parsley and salt to taste.
|Q & A: Ordering for Next Season|
Q. When can I start ordering onions for the next growing season?
A. You can start ordering our onion plants beginning November 1, 2012. From that date on, order any time during the growing season, and we'll ship on your requested date.
You'll receive your catalog sometime in November, which can help with ordering decisions. Let us know if you want us to add a friend or neighbor to the mailing list!
|Fun Onion Facts|
Did you know that nearly all sweet yellow onions currently on the market can trace their origins to Texas, our home state? Until 1920, most yellow onions came from the Canary Islands. But Texans started experimenting with Bermuda onions in 1904, and by 1920 had more or less eliminated the Island competition, due to superior seed quality.
In 1933, the U.S.D.A. and Texas A&M University jointly began an onion breeding program in which they produced the Grano 502 variety -- the "Mother of All Sweet Onions in the World." Further experimentation at Texas A&M and elsewhere yielded all the other SuperSweet varieties we now enjoy, including the famous 1015Y and many well-known Granex varieties, including Vidalia, NoonDay, and Maui.
All Your Questions Answered
We have answers to your frequently asked questions! Just click the link for information on when to order your onions, as well as for tips on planting, caring, feeding, harvesting, and storing them.
How Did Your Onions Do?
Now that the growing season is over, we'd love to know how your varieties did this year. This is particularly helpful as we evaluate performance of our onions in order to plan for the next season.
You'll find a "write your own review" link on every product page. Just visit our Web site and click on the product. Don't be shy -- we really value your feedback!
Join Us On Facebook!
Join the community of friends and growers on our Facebook page! You can connect with us and fellow growers to share stories, photos, recipes, and even weather information and other tips.
For example, if you've ever wondered what we mean by laying out onions in windrows to keep the sun from burning them, take a look at this photo by Jim Downs on Bruce's Wall page (you may have to log in to Facebook first). This photo shows exactly what we mean.
And be sure to check out our short videos, on topics ranging from how onion plants are harvested to onions and the cold.