A tale of two onion varieties...

mulberryknobJune 20, 2013

and I don't even know the varieties, just the colors. Years ago when I first began gardening, the local feed store sold onion plants in bundles each spring, labeled only by color--white, yellow, and red. I was told the red were the sweetest and the white and yellow were better for cooking and stored better. Until I found this forum a few years ago that's all I knew about onions and even til this year all I paid attention to. I always planted onions when I planted potatoes and always had a good crop of both reds and either whites or yellows. But this year...that 22 degree freeze hit a few days after I planted the onions and it wiped out all but about a dozen of the red onions, and those hardly made anything at all. A couple onions the size of pullet eggs, the rest the size of quail eggs, not much bigger than when we planted them. The whites on the other hand, came through the freeze unscathed and produced lovely big onions--for cooking. I tried them sliced in a tomato-cucumber salad, but they dominate too much and are just too hot. So now I am wishing I had paid more attention over the years to onion varieties, as I am facing a summer of buying sweet red onions. Has anyone else had onion trouble this year?

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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Yes, this year I bought the plants and put off planting them because of the weather. They declined before I got them all planted.

I always buy lots of sets and plants when they come in and use them for green onions. I never have known how to get the nice big bulbs.

Glenda recommended Candy onions and now I do get some nice big onions, but not many this year. The variety does make a big difference and I didn't understand that you need to buy a certain plant to get bulbs and another type just for green onions.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 12:16PM
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Dorothy, My favorite kind is Candy and that is mostly what I plant, but then I add an intermediate sampler that has a few red onions in it so I have them for pepper jams. Reds are probably my least favorite because not only do they not size up for me, but when I prepare them for use, I need to peel several layers away to get to the good part of the onion.

My onions didn't freeze back, but I think the temps going back and forth so much was really hard on them this year. I pulled about a third of mine yesterday. They were in a raised bed and fell over really early. I planted in a bed that gets shaded by the asparagus after we stop cutting it, so they weren't getting enough sun. I thought they would size up before the asparagus got in the way, but they didn't. Most were only golf ball size or less. Guess that bed will just be for lettuce in the future.

The same onions planted a little later in ground beds have not fallen over and are much larger, but I don't see any really huge ones. I planted pretty close so that probably also effects the size.

Sweet onions normally don't store well, but last year my Candy onions were still good into January when I ran out. I planted more this year, but unless this last batch sizes up, I will still run out. Of course, most of these smaller ones that I pulled yesterday will probably just get frozen to use for cooking. I think I had 14 or 15 onions that sent up seed stalks and almost all of them were the white onions from my intermediate sampler pack, so I don't know the name.

I never got to fertilize mine because anytime I was home, it was either raining or too wet to add more liquid. My garden is not good this year because I just haven't been able to take care of it.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 12:27PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I had to protect my onions from freezing on plenty of late freezing nights after they were planted, and they suffered from very low rainfall until mid-May (9.7" up to that point) and then very heavy rainfall for several weeks after that.The result? Overall, a huge crop, but the widest range of sizes within each variety that I've ever seen. It was very hit and miss. Even within a single variety, some onions were baseball to softball sized, but also there were some that were golfball sized. I cannot find any rhyme or reason to it. You might have three golfball sized ones in a row, and then a softball sized one. With all the crazy weather, I am just glad to have a crop.

I haven't had a chance to cut up any yet to freeze, but when I do, I'll put up enough frozen onions, both chopped and sliced, to get us through 2 or 3 years. Then, I think I might make red onion relish for Tim, and put the rest up for fresh eating. We have a lot more than we can eat fresh, but I like to fill up the freezer with chopped and sliced ones about once every 3rd year, and this is the year.

I do think that red onions are a lot harder to raise here. They don't seem to like the cold and they sure don't like the heat either. Red Southern Belle does so-so most years, but it does much better here than Red Candy Apple, which doesn't size up well for me. Red Creole sizes up well and stores forever, but isn't as sweet as the other two reds.

Whites and yellows are more consistent for me, so I just choose them for sweetness. This year I grew Texas Legend, 1015Y Texas Supersweet, Texas Early White, Candy and Superstar. Candy and Superstar produced the biggest, but they all produced well and all are sweet.

I'm trying to think of an environmental reason your onions would be so unpleasantly hot, but cannot come up with one, so think it must be the variety...whatever it was. Normally, the long day-length types often have a more pungent flavor, but I doubt you grew a long-day type. Well, I might have to take that back....if a person adds a lot of sulphur to an onion bed in an effort to correct a pH problem, the onions that year can seem to be less sweet than usual.

I always do good soil prep with lots of compost and sometimes blood meal before I plant, but don'[t feed after that. This year I probably should have watered them more often than I did before rain began falling more consistently in mid-May, but we still got plenty....because I planted 7 varieties. After seeing how much my soil is holding water, even in the raised beds, while digging potatoes yesterday, I am sort of amazed all my onions and potatoes didn't rot. A few potatoes did rot in a part of the garden that doesn't drain as well as the rest, but the 5 or 6 onions I lost to rot were scattered throughout their bed, so I think it was more of a fungal rot.

If I could only grow one onion, it probably would be Candy. They get huge and sweet and store forever. For reds, Red Creole and Red Burgundy do better than any other red I've ever grown, and Red Creole stores as long as Candy in a good year, (6-8 months if well-cured), but Red Creole is more pungent than the other reds I've grown.

I'm sorry you had a bad onion year. Honestly? The way the weather was up and down and all over the place, it isn't surprising. You might have had too much moisture in combination with that really cold night.

I got really annoyed about having to cover up everything repeatedly on the recurring cold nights. However, the garden is producing well overall, so I guess all those nights of covering up plants were worth it. I still feel out-of-sync with the weather. Once those cold nights finally stopped, May felt like April to me so I feel like I am a month "off" still. The heat has arrived and I guess that will bring me to my senses and make me realize it is late June.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 1:55PM
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We too grow the candy.It is my understanding that the Texas Supersweet 1015Y is the same thing as the vidalia. Just cant be called vidalia because of where it is grown. That info came from a grower who ships to them in Vidalia Georgia. We have grown both and I still like the candy the best. Me and Dad have competitions on our gardens each year. Most years he beats me.He did much better with the reds than I did last year. I didnt plant any this year and I dont think he did either..Never have frozen any. I use them in my eggs every morning. Guess its time to try!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 2:47PM
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My onion year was pretty good, but I did too much experimenting. I planted 6 different types of seeds and planted at least 4 different kinds of plants. My onions got no special attention except feeding them some. (I did most of the experiment on the seed planting). I have given away many onions and there are still some in the back of my pick-up. Here is a picture of the last 80 onion I pulled. These are Dixondale and Bonnie plants, both did well this year. My markers faded as bad as my memories.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 7:26PM
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I pulled 95% of my onions earlier this week. We had chances for rain so I put them in the garage. Should I put them back outside in the shade or will curing in the garage work? The reds are called sweet red and the yellows 1015y tx supersweets, both dixondale from a local nursery. Size is golf ball to baseball, with most of the reds being on the small side. I planted late and didn't do any special fertilizer except one dose of blue water before bulbing.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 10:34PM
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Mia, your onions look very nice. This was a year to play for me. After joining this forum I have become a better gardener, thanks for all the wisdom here, and hope to keep becoming a better gardener.

I have always liked to experiment with how things work. This spring it was cabbage and onions. I planted too many of both. This summer it is pumpkin/squash and pimento peppers. I expect most gardeners love to try new things.

I hope your onions cure and keep well. I will be facing the same problems as you as I try to cure mine. I wish I had let the tops fall over more on mine.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 8:50AM
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I've read that the reason Vidalia onions are so sweet is because the soil they are grown in has a low sulfur content. They are typically yellow granex onions (or yellow granex parentage), which is a sweet variety, but the soil in and around Vidalia, Georgia is the reason for the extra sweet flavor. So, if your onions are more pungent and not as sweet as you hoped it is possibly due to a high sulfur content in the soil.

That said, I also believe it could be due to stress on the onions. I'm no onion expert though.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 10:39AM
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Scott is right about Vidalia. It is not a type of onion, just a location where they are grown and only onions grown in those few counties can be called Vidalia. Dixondale is the supplier for many of those plants that are later called Vidalia.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 12:20PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

And by "many", Carol means that Dixondale ships hundreds of millions of onion plants to commercial growers, including plenty of folks who grow them in the Vidalia region.

Mia, I think they will cure just fine in the garage. You might leave the garage door open now and then when you're home for good air flow, or run a fan. I have cured onions every place you can think of, both indoors and out, and they have cured just fine no matter where I cured them.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 5:03PM
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mmm I am very confused. We have an older man(Gene) who has been coming to the greenhouses for forever it seems. As honest as they come. So much so we give him free reign and he waits on himself. Was talking about the texas 1015 and he had spoken to someone (I can never remember names) who said they had just shipped(bunches) of them to georgia so Gene tried to tell someone that they were the same and they wouldnt believe him. Gene lives in the tulsa area. Dont remember who he spoke to. Guess I'll have to ask more next time I see him. So they are not the same? Do not want to tell our customers they are if they are not. I do know soil changes them but still do not want to misrepresent them.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 12:03AM
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Well as I looked up yellow granex and texas supersweet the best I could figure they are not the same. I was sure my boss had told me they were BUT with my memory I should never be sure of anything. We have raised yellow granex before from seeds and we order in the texas 1015 so maybe I confused the ones Gene was talking about. I'm sure the fault is mine not his. He is the sweetest thing! Wants to know when we are gonna break out our bikinis. (He knows the answer is "Whenever you wear your speedo Gene") I think he is in his early 80s and is a go getter. Love him to death. Sorry I misspoke or mistyped!! Sure did not mean to mislead anyone. Sheila

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 12:51AM
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I was trying to do some studying on onions and garlic early this year. It seems to me that the parent seeds that were used in developing these onions came from somewhere else, and onions and garlic have been cultivated for 1000's of years.

I grew the Texas Sweet and 1015y in the same garden this year and they looked the same. Except for the fact that I hung them in different areas would not know a Bonnie plant from a Dixondale plant. I may be able to tell a difference after I eat more, but I doubt it. So far I have been happy with both.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:23AM
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From History of Vidalia Onions on the Hendrix Produce site.

Quote "Under the terms of Federal Marketing Order No. 955, as well as a state law, Vidalia Onions are defined to include only those produced in 13 counties and portions of seven others, all in Georgia. Although the yellow granex hybrid is grown in many other parts of the country, it is only in the defined production area that the soil and climate combine to produce the special characteristics of the sweet Vidalia Onion that has attracted the attention of gourmet taste buds everywhere." End Quote

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:44AM
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Well, next year I think I will pay more attention to variety. Thanks everyone, for the onion education.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 8:00AM
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pam_chesbay(VA 8a/7b)

This is my first year to grow onions, my experiences have been similar to Dawn's. Good sized crop, many sizes of each variety. I planted Texas Legend, Candy, Super Star, Red Candy, and the red and white cippolinis - all from Dixondale. I'm pulling and drying them now, have a question.

I read that onions store best in low temperatures - low 40s, high 30s. I don't have a cold storage area or an extra fridge so I store most stuff in the garage where it's shady but temps are similar to temps outside.

I plan to store some in the net bags, chop and freeze the rest of the big onions.

What do you do with the cute little cippolinis? Can you store them in net bags? Can you freeze them whole? (I'll bet the quality suffers ...)

Many thanks,

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 12:34PM
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Pam, I don't know the answer to your question, but I'm glad you asked because it made me do a little research. I thought that all Cippolini onions were long day types, but I see that Dixondale says that the Red Marble is a intermediate day variety so I may have to give them a try. I grew one long day type last year and they did fine, but they stayed in the garden forever. I was ready to use that space for something else and all the other onions had already been pulled. I live in the NE corner of Oklahoma and right in the middle of the area that Dixondale defines as Intermediate-day.

You might ask on the Harvest Forum if you don't get an answer here.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 1:22PM
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Pam, not sure what your temps are but I lost about half my onions stored in our garage to dry rot last year. It would look fine then you'd try to pick it up and it was just a husk. I'll be storing ours in the pantry this year once they are cured, temps in garage were just too hot.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 2:19PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Yellow Granex at one time was just an onion. Then the breeders got involved and now there are dozens of yellow granex varieties, each with their own name. There also are many onion varieties that are crosses of Yellow Granex and something else. There is a specific list (though it may not be available to the public because it may be considered a trade secret) of Yellow Granex varieties that can be grown and sold as Vidalia Onions by growers in that specific onion-growing region as defined by Georgia law. I've never seen the list, but the last I heard, it had 17 varieties on it. The varieties may change as breeding lines change, and the breeders have to re-submit their various Yellow Granex varieties to the Vidalia onion marketing group every few years for re-approval. I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion about which onions are grown as Vidalias.

Pam, I don't know about the Cippolinis either. I'd ask at the Harvest Forum. How long onions last for me depends a lot on the weather. Once properly cured, I've had them last 6-8 months some years, which isn't bad considering our climate. They often don't last as long in really humid summers as they do in drier summers with lower humidity values. I store some of mine indoors in our kitchen pantry, which is a long narrow walk-in pantry under the staircase. I keep them way back in the back where it stays cool and dark. I keep the rest in the tornado shelter, which stays cooler than our garage.

I have kept some of them in my potting shed some years, and still have usable onions in January or February. Other years they start sprouting in the shed in October or November.

If you have various storage options, I'd try storing them several different ways and compare the results. That's the best way to figure out quickly what works best for you in your climate.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 8:00PM
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pam_chesbay(VA 8a/7b)

Carol, thanks for looking. I'm really happy with the harvest of all onion varieties - Red Candy onions are smaller than other storage varieties but still prolific. I may try another red variety next year.

The Red Marble cippolini onions are sizing up sooner than the Borettanas, probably because Borettanas are long day onions.

Mia - thanks for the advice about storing in the house. I'll do that. The Dixondale site says cippolini onions will keep for about 5 months -- longer than some storage onions.

Dawn - another science experiment. ;-) OK, I'll store some in the pantry, some in the walk-in closet (it's dark, food is crowding out clothes), and will freeze a few whole onions. In 2-3 months, we'll do a taste test.

In my experience, some things - like potatoes - don't freeze well. People say that the texture/ consistency of frozen pearl onions isn't good - that led me to wonder if frozen cippolinis would have similar problems.

I'll post a question on the Harvest Forum too.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 12:50PM
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