Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Garden Journal 6/2/09:
Harvesting Spring Onions Grown from Purchased Plants

Just Picked Red Candy Apple Onions (and Topaz)

Realization of the Day:
These just might be the prettiest onions I've ever picked.

Back in February, on the recommendation of my friend and gardening hero, Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farm, I ordered 400 leek plants and way too many onion plants (the more you buy, the better the price) from Dixondale Farms in Texas, the oldest and largest onion farm in the U.S.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that up until this year, I had no idea that the size of an onion bulb is dependent upon daylength and temperature, not the size or age of the plants—which probably at least partly explains why over the years I've often ended up with disappointing (albeit tasty) little bulbs.

Because we're sitting right on the borders of Dixondale's 'which varieties are right for you' map, I went ahead and ordered all three types of onions that they offer—Long Day, Intermediate Day, and Short Day—just to see how they fared.

I figured if worst came to worst, some of the varieties wouldn't form bulbs, and we'd have a lot of green onions. Fortunately last year, dozens of you pitched in and offered up your favorite ways to enjoy green onions, so I wasn't worried about what to do with the excess.

As a rule, I don't grow any hybrids in my kitchen garden, but I made an exception with these onion plants—mostly because there were no heirloom Intermediate Day varieties available, which looked to be the most suitable variety for our southern Missouri location. Besides, I reminded myself, the onion sets I usually buy at the feed store are probably hybrid varieties, too. I ordered a total of nine different onion varieties, including some heirlooms.

Red Candy Apple is a new variety that is exclusive to Dixondale Farms, where they've been growing onions since 1913. Here's what they have to say about it:

We have been working on a red intermediate day hybrid that is as sweet as candy—so sweet that you can eat it like an apple. Compared to the Stockton Red, the Red Candy Apple offers improved sizing, better interior color and an intense dark red skin with very mild taste. This red onion's color moves inside as the bulb matures and the interior produces beautiful red rings after curing. Remarkably uniform, this new development also features a high percentage of single centers in its solid, firm bulbs.

In order to have enough onions so that I could harvest some of them during the growing season as green onions, when I planted them in early March I spaced them 2" inches apart instead of the usual 4" apart. But since I put in hundreds of plants, the green onions quickly got away from me. They're now what you'd call large spring onions, which I think are even better—at this size you can enjoy the green tops as well as the young bulbs.

One of My New Favorite Easy Salad Recipes

If you want to store your onions, pull them out of the ground and let them dry in the sun for two days—with the tops of one row of bulbs laid over the bulbs of another to prevent sunscald.

There was no need to dry this beautiful bunch of Red Candy Apples, though, as they went straight from the garden into a batch of this simple and refreshing Garbanzo Bean & Feta Salad (along with some fabulous cilantro—the first I've grown in years!). I haven't tried eating one of these onions like an apple, but they are definitely nice and sweet.

Are there onions in your garden this year? Any favorite varieties, growing tips, or recipes to share? Do tell!

Previous onion posts:
6/7/08: What To Do with 125 Green Onions (Scallions)
6/7/08: Wanted: Your Recipes and Favorite Ways to Use Green Onions
6/12/05: Growing Onions In The Garden
It's Time to Plant Onions!
Operation Onion Complete!
Companion Planting Beets & Lettuce with Onions

More ways to enjoy scallions and spring onions:
Sour Cream & Onion Dip
Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw
Summer in a Bowl
Colors of Summer Salad
Healthy Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Kalamata Olives
Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Cottage Cheese
Sprinkled on top of Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip
Three Onion & Three Cheese Pizza

© Copyright 2009 FarmgirlFare.com, the heatwave foodie farm blog where they don't always make it into the final photo, but if I'm taking pictures outdoors—or working in the garden—you can usually bet there's a cute four-footed critter somewhere underfoot.


  1. I had roughly 4 dozen onions in a mix of "regular" red, white, and yellow that I bought in sets from the market.

    Then my husband came across a candy variety he had liked from the farmer's market last year and bought me a couple dozen of those as starters.

    Then a fellow gardener from church offered me some of his onions that were more mature....so I planted those to.

    I only have about 300 sq ft. of vegetable garden all total...and the moral of the story is basically that I probably have far too many, but we will enjoy them!

    Thanks for updating, I enjoy visiting your blog and learning new tips and tricks for my garden (I also never knew that onion size was driven by the length of day)


  2. I hope my onions turn out this good Susan!!

  3. We had green onions growing in our backyard when we moved here. They're the "walking" kind; they sprout a small set of bulbs on top, the weight topples the stalk, and then the new bulbs plant themselves. Hence, the "walking" name; they travel.

  4. this is my first year for onions, so i went relatively simple - bought one bunch of red onion sets and one bunch of sweet yellow sets. the yellows have fared better than the reds, but i think i'll definitely end up with a successful harvest.

    i think i'm most scared about storing them correctly so they won't rot. will need to read up on that before harvest time comes.

  5. We get an "F" for growing onions successfully. Never enough rain. But we can buy 50 pound bags of locally grown onions from the Mennonite store for less than ten bucks, so I don't worry about it much.

  6. After many years of gardening and growing produce for a local Community Supported Agriculture project, I too came to the rather embarassing realization that I was planting the wrong sort of onions for my location in Virginia--smack in the middle of short and long season regions of the US. This year I planted Red Candy Apple, Candy, and Super Star (all intermediate.)
    -Heidi Lewis



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