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Henderson Topset

Posted by Mark_Fields z5 MO (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 26, 04 at 22:36

Thia past year I posted information about the old Henderson Topset that I've maintained all these years. Several folks asked me questions, so now that the onions are dried I thought it appropriate to post a picture.

For the new folks on the list here is the story on them:

In about 1984 I met Falba Henderson by an ad I placed in a smale Carthage, MO newspaper seeking "multiplying onions". She replied. She was quite elderly at the time and has since passed away.

She always knew these as potato onions. When she married pre-Depression in Almo, OK, an elderly aunt gave her these onions, a string bean and some sweet potatos as presents to start her first garden. She'd kept them all those years.

The onions have a reddish-brown skin (definitely not yellow) and a pink tinge between the rings. they are strong flavoured with about average storage life.

Best planted in fall as they make bigger and better quality onions that way. If spring planted many will divide but not send up a stalk for topsets.

Topset production is erratic - weather seems to play a significant facto in this. They never produce as many topsets as Egyptian Onions, but will alwasy multiply at the base.

When topsets are planted, they often grow into 2" diameter onion in the one season (if well tended). Larger onions should be fall planted or eaten soon as they are the first to spoil. The 1" diameter onions store best. Those smaller often dry up in storage.

An interesting note, Mrs. Henderson has a 2 foot square block where she always planted these. Each year she would dig the onions, then scoop out the dirt a couple of inches down. She'd go to another spot in the garden and get a 5 gallon bucket of soil. This soil she'd dump on the 2' section and create a small mound or hill. She'd then replant the onions. In this way she grew the onions in the exact same spot for some 40+ years. This is how her aunt grew them in Oklahoma, all those years ago. Imagine that!

I listed these for a number of years in SSE though I've never seen them re-listed. As far as I know I'm still the only one raising them.

Image link: Henderson Topset (30 k)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Henderson Topset

Sounds like they are not a real potato onion as Mrs. Henderson thought. As far as I know, potato onions are supposed to be good keepers. Also doesn't sound like any multipliers that I knew as a kid. With the slow reproduction, one can imagine why they would have fallen out of favor 100+ years ago. Interesting!

Martin


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RE: Henderson Topset

No, they are not what we think of as potato onions in this modern day.

As for keeping quailty, I didn't state my thoughts clearly. The average size and smaller ones keep just as well as the yellow potato onions, but the very large and smallest ones don't fare as well. One year when I moved I planted some 1 inch onions that were almost 18 months and they kept the strain going. This past year when I moved the onions from one garden to another in November, they didn't miss a beat, and only one hill died out.

Having said that the very large (over 3 inch diameter) want to sprout and start growing and deteriorating in storage unless refrigerated. Since I want to eat some anyway, that isn't an issue with me.

Productivity isn't much of a problem - note the clump of onions in the picture - that is typical of potato onions. As someone whose grown the yellow potato onion these past 30 years, I'd rate the two as about the same - maybe slightly less - but that is made up by the production of the topsets that increase the overall numbers.

I don't like peeling itty-bitty onions, that's why I gave up on most all my multipliers. The Hendersons are a staple at our house and I hope to propogate them for many decades to come.

Hope this clarifies a few things.
Mark


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RE: Henderson Topset

Mark, they sound quite interesting... you should take the precaution of having other people growing them as well. It would be a pity to lose them altogether if something untoward happened in your garden.

Have you posted about them in the Heirloom Plants and Gardens Forum? I would think you might get some interesting responses there.


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