The Importance of Variety Selection
This photo illustrates the importance of selecting vegetable varieties to suit YOUR needs. As with any vegetable, there are different onion varieties bred for different purposes. Some have very high sugars and are excellent fresh out of the garden, but best used within a short time after harvest (Candy Hybrid, I’m looking at you). Some are pungent and rock hard, but store until the next spring. In this photo you see onions, brought up from my cellar in February (harvested in June). Can you guess which variety was bred to be a storage onion?
Patterson (on the right) is a long storage onion, it has a pungent flavor and very firm texture, that while you might not want to slice on your burger, is excellent cooked. It reliably keeps until at least March for me. Alisa Craig (in the middle) is an heirloom variety touted for its large bulb size. It certainly did size up in my garden, and had a wonderful, sweet flavor and juicy, tender-crisp texture-- BUT it is not a long storage onion. You can see the massive amounts of sprouts it’s already sent up, and what you can’t see in the photo is that the interior of that bulb is just a ball of mush. The red onion pictured (on the left) is Red River. It was marketed as having a storage potential of 3-5 months, which it exceeded. The Red River onions I have left in storage just recently started sprouting, and the bulbs are still edible. However, for a long-term red storage onion, I’ve had much better luck with Red Zeppelin. I had 2 white onion varieties in storage as well. Ringmaster (touted as having 4 months storage potential) and Highlander (6 months). Both were rotting within 2 months of storage!
My point in all of this is, that if you want onions that last in storage- start with a variety bred as a storage onion. If you want sweet, tasty onions for salads and burgers, look for varieties high in sugars—but use them first!
Which onion varieties are your favorites to grow- and what do you use them for?