A team of onion growers in the US claims to have created a new variety of sweet onion which is not only said to be crisper and sweeter than any others but also lasts up to eight months.
The Wonderful Washington Sweet Onion has been developed by Paul and Mike Hatch of Pasco, Washington state, in response to complaints that sweet onions do not keep. "None - until now - of the sweet onions store well. The problem with sweet onions is the sugar shortens their shelf life," explained Roy Hillman, manager of Hatco Packing.
Hillman worked with the Hatch brothers during nearly five years of crossing and testing that went into developing the onion.
Besides developing a long-life onion, the Hatches wanted a sweet onion with the classic onion globe shape - Walla Walla Sweets, like Vidalias, are 'flat' onions. However, while Walla Walla Sweet are soft onions, the Wonderful Washington Sweet Onion is described as hard and unyielding.
The problem with sweet onions such as the Walla Walla is the high water content, explained Hillman. It has bigger cells - to hold the water - so it has a lower ratio of solids to moisture. That makes for a softer onion, more prone to bruising. The Wonderful Washington Sweet, he continued, is a dense-celled onion with lots of solids and less water than Walla Walla Sweets.
"More solids means more sugar and a 'tougher' onion," he said. Compared side by side with a Walla Walla Sweet, a Wonderful Washington Sweet had a milder aroma, a sweeter flavour with a negligible oniony after bite, thinner rings, and it didn't leave a lingering onion smell on the fingers, according to Hillman.
To keep the newly developed onions at their' best, they are packed in 10- and 40-pound cardboard boxes, not sacks. Sweet onions are not built to have a lot of weight on them and do not take a lot of abuse, Hillman explained. The box is therefore designed to support them during shipping and prevent bruising.
"Under optimum storage conditions, they'll keep up to six to eight months. Although where it's warm and humid, two to four months is more realistic," said Barry Long of Baker Produce.
Long also explained that the sweetness of the onion is bred in. It can be grown anywhere if conditions are right, and the seed will still produce sweet, crisp, long-keeping onions.
For more information about the new Wonderful Washington Sweet Onion visit the website www.hatcopacking.com .