Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Siskiyou Sweet Onion

We got the seeds for this onion from Hawthorn Farm, a couple years ago when we were looking for a replacement for Candy; a Monsanto hybrid. In general, we want to keep our own seeds, and although Candy was a good onion, we did not expect to be able to save seed from it (and didn't like to buy it, because Monsanto). So far, Siskiyou Sweet has made a very good replacement. We did not try them side-by-side so I am not sure how they compare for sweetness, but we have been eating Siskiyou Sweet raw on hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads, and enjoying them very much.

Siskiyou Sweet was selected out of Walla Walla, a famous sweet onion from Walla Walla county, Washington. The Walla Walla name is trademarked, and they are one of the few onions sold by the variety name, as opposed to just generically as "yellow", "red", or "Spanish" onions. Don Tipping of Siskiyou Seeds/Seven Seeds Farm worked with saving seed and selecting for better uniformity and disease and split resistance. There is a good article about him and his work at A Way to Garden.

Siskiyou Sweet belongs to the family of onions known as Spanish, which are large white onions mild enough to eat raw. In general, they are not good keepers, and Siskiyou Sweet are not known as keepers either, although I have kept them into January in our cold cellar without much sprouting.

Walla Walla onions developed out of seed brought from Corsica around 1900, by a French soldier, Peter Pieri, who settled in the area. It is somewhat unusual in being a sweet Spanish type onion well adapted to being grown in the north - most of the well-known sweet onions come from the south, as their Spanish origins might suggest.

In general, I consider sweet onions best for eating raw. They contain enough sugar that they are more inclined than regular storage onions to scorch when cooked, although if you watch them carefully you can prevent that. However, they are so mild that I don't find they provide enough flavour when cooked. Because of this, we grow these sweet onions in relatively small quantities for fresh eating from mid-summer into late fall.

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