|Coping With Extreme Weather||July 2013|
The hot, wet weather that's engulfed so much of the country has had our phones ringing off the hook. This year's extreme weather conditions have fostered an unusually high amount of onion diseases.
Identifying problems early can help you minimize damage. Properly drying and curing onions can reduce or eliminate post-harvest problems. Here's a quick review of what to watch out for.
What's Got My Onions?
If something is amiss with your onions, identifying the issue can help you determine what to do. The photos and links in the Common Onion Diseases section of our Web site is a good place to start. In hot, humid weather, be on the lookout for:
- Blue-green mold, dusty green spores that develop along the mid ribs and under the surface when wet weather occurs before harvest.
- Black mold, a similar fungus with black spores common when there's excessive heat before harvest.
- Neck rot, which causes necks to turn soft and brown inside.
- Fusarium basal rot, a soil-borne disease fostered by high temperatures.
- Bacterial rots such as slippery skin and sour skin, which cause a softening of the inner layers of the onion.
Regular application of fungicides during the growing season can prevent many of these problems. After harvest, thorough drying, curing, and proper storage will help you maximize your yields.
Harvesting and Drying
When you harvest, pull the onions in the morning and let them air dry until late afternoon. Be sure to pick a day when rain isn't forecast, and don't leave them out so long that dew falls on them. Move them into the shade on hot days.
We usually suggest "windrowing" during the drying process -- covering the bulb of one onion with the leaves of another to prevent sunscald. Avoid this practice during wet weather, as it may promote fungal diseases. Turning your onions frequently while they're drying is also helpful.
If you dry your onions indoors, be sure to spread them out in a well-ventilated area with plenty of room for airflow between the onions. Drying indoors may take longer than outdoor drying, but 2-3 weeks is usually sufficient with full circulation.
The drying process is complete when the neck is tight, the outer skin is dry and makes a rustling sound when handled, and the skin color is uniform.
Inspect your onions carefully before storage, and remove any diseased ones so problems don't spread. Providing cool, dry air conditions and adequate air flow will keep your storage onions happy for months. For ideal storage conditions:
- Maintain temperatures of 40-60 degrees F and relative humidity of 65%-75%.
- Keep onions one foot away from walls to maintain good air flow.
- Consider using a fan to promote good air flow.
- Immediately remove any diseased onions.
- Avoid storing onions in direct sunlight.
- Never store onions with potatoes, which emit moisture.
- Don't store onions in plastic bags, which restrict air flow. Instead use mesh bags or nets.
Follow these simple instructions, and you'll be enjoying your onions for months to come, With proper care, sweet onions will store for up to three months, and storage types will last the entire winter.
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
Mesh Netting. 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.
Storage Bags. If you grow onions in quantity, like so many of our customers do, you'll need some good storage options -- especially if you're planning to sell your onions. Our storage bags are ideal.
These orange mesh bags not only provide the ventilation your onions need, they're light and strong as well. They're available in three sizes, with the 10 and 50 pound sizes recommended for larger producers:
You can purchase our storage bags individually or in bulk. They're $2.50 each, but if you buy ten or more, they're $2.00 each. And of course, as with all products at Dixondale Farms, we don't add shipping charges.
Onion Calipers. We know you're a master onion farmer, but now you can prove it! With this onion caliper tool you can accurately determine the size of your crop. Onions are categorized according to their diameter:
Super Colossal: 4-1/4 inches and up
Colossal: 3-3/4 inches and up
Jumbo: 3 inches and up
Medium: 2-1/4 inches to 3-1/4 inches
Prepack: 1-3/4 inches to 2-3/4 inches
Boiler: 1 to 1-7/8 inches
As you can see, there's some overlap of sizing. A 3-1/4 inch medium can be considered a large medium or a small jumbo, for example.
We're selling these handy tools for $4.99, and we only have a limited number -- so hurry! They have our 100-year logo on them, and will be great to use at farmers markets or for bragging rights with other onion growers!
Onion Shears. Here's a dandy product that many onion growers forget about, but it makes the job a whole lot easier. This set of onion shears is the same type of tool that professional onion field workers (including ours) use to snip the tops and bottoms off mature bulbs after they're harvested and field-dried. Each of our workers has to process 5,000 pounds of onions or more during the season, so you know they require a solid, durable, ergonomic tool. While you probably don't have as many onions to worry about, these steel shears make processing your onions a snap (literally!), helping to ensure a quick, bountiful harvest.
From Our Friends
Gervey S. of Brusly, LA sent us this photo. "My onion crop for 2013 so far," he notes. "Should be harvesting soon. Here's my Granddaughter Aliyah gathering some onions for Mom and Dad -- short day varieties 1015, Southern Belle Red, Red Creole and Texas Early White."
Got some onion-related photos to share? Click here for submission tips. You just might see your photo in a future newsletter!
| Around the Farm
Dixondale in the News
Bruce and the farm were featured in a recent article in New Holland's PowerManager: A Newsletter for Cash Crop Producers. It shows the farm in a different light than most articles, with its emphasis on the farm employees. It is nice to see Holland describe our transition from manual to tractor seeding, which was a significant change for us.
|Cooking with Onions
Sweet Onion Veggie Salad
- 1 large or 2 small red onions, cut into wedges (about 2-1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 1 cup julienne pared jicama
- 1 cup fresh or frozen edamame, shelled
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned
- Margarita Dressing (recipe follows)
- 2 quarts assorted salad greens
- 1/2 bunch fresh chives
Margarita Dressing: Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 teaspoons honey mustard, and 2 teaspoons sugar.
Sautee onions gently in oil over medium heat for 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Combine onions, corn, jicama, edamame and bell pepper in bowl. Pour Margarita Dressing over and toss lightly. Chill until ready to serve. Portion over greens in salad bowl, or on individual plates. Top with whole chives. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Recipe courtesy of The National Onion Association. If you have a recipe you'd like us to print, email it to email@example.com.
Q & A: Ordering for the New Season
Q. When can I start ordering for the next growing season?
A. Our onion plants for the upcoming season can be ordered beginning November 1, 2013. From that date on, order any time during the growing season, and we'll ship according to your zip code. Try to order early, as we run out of popular varieties quickly.
Fun Onion Facts
While we used to think that the Egyptian pyramids were built with slave labor, the majority of evidence now indicates that the builders were actually paid craftsmen. Not only that, they may have been fed a diet of onions and radishes. In fact, these and garlic may have served as their pay for the construction, which suggests that they were well-respected indeed.
You see, the ancient Egyptians believed onions were holy, with their spherical shape and rings symbolizing eternal life. Though we don't have any direct evidence of how the Egyptians felt about radishes, their roundness and association with onions in this context may mean that they, too, were well thought of.
All Your Questions Answered
We have answers to your frequently asked questions! Just click the link for information on when to order your onions and how to find your frost and freeze dates, as well as for tips on planting, caring, feeding, harvesting, and storing them.
Here are two great customer photos showing two methods of drying and curing onions: one by simply laying the onions out on a lawn, the other by hanging them under the rafters of a shed. Both methods work well, though on sunny days, we suggest that the bulbs of those dried outdoors be covered over with the tops of the next row, in the process we call windrowing, to protect them from sunscald.
Got some pictures to share? Send 'em our way!
About Dixondale Farms
As the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the U.S. (100 years strong!), Dixondale Farms offers a wide selection of top-quality, disease-free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see our complete product line, request a catalog, or for growing tips and cultural information, visit our Web site.
Whether you're planting one bunch or thousands of acres, we're committed to your success. We've posted answers to frequently asked questions about growing onions on our FAQ page. If you have other questions, call us from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CT at 877-367-1015, or e-mail us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. And be sure to check out our short videos, on topics ranging from how onion plants are harvested to how onions deal with cold weather.
Take a look at this Candy onion just pulled from the soil (a raised bed in this case) by one of our Facebook fans, grower Bracey Tiede of San Jose, CA. What a beautiful sight to behold!
And remember -- if you're looking to make a unique fashion statement and join us as we celebrate 100 years of business at one and the same time, you can buy one of our spiffy new Centennial T-shirts!