On our last blog we discussed the growth cycle of onions and differentiated between the vegetative and bulbing phases. We emphasized the importance of feeding the onions well with AgroThrive General Purpose during the vegetative phase to maximize growth and eventually make a larger bulb. We also made the distinction between short-day, intermediate-day, and long-day onion varieties and provided a graphic to show which varieties you should plant based on your location.
Now you that you know which day-length type of onions you should be growing in your area, let’s talk more about the different shapes and colors of bulbing onions that you can grow in a backyard garden. You can find short-day, intermediate-day, and long-day varieties for each of the categories listed below. Depending on your taste preferences or desire for longer storage potential, you may decide to grow more of one category than another. We’ll provide the pros and cons of each category so that you can choose the varieties that work best for you.
Red Bulbing Onions
Red onions tend to be more spicy than white or yellow onions, although the “bite” of the onion will vary from one variety to the next. When sliced fresh, these onions provide a nice flavor to salads or burgers. They can also be used to make some incredible pasta sauces with homegrown tomatoes.
Red onions have the shortest storage potential compared to white and yellow onions, so try to use these within a couple months of harvesting. After a few months, the center of the red onion will start to brown and rot. This will eventually extend throughout the entire onion. If only the center has turned brown, you can always remove the center portion and use the rest of the onion.
Red onions are also more prone to bolting. When an onion bolts (produces a flower head), it won’t store very well. Red onions are more sensitive to changes in temperature as the bulbs are maturing, causing them to bolt more frequently.
If you do have onions that produce seed heads, be sure to use those first. Pickling red onions is a great way to preserve the harvest if you have red onion plants that have bolted.
White Bulbing Onions
Much like red onions, white onions tend to be very pungent. They’re full of sharp onion flavor that might make you cry a little when cutting them. White onions are usually round and traditionally don’t get quite as large as most red or yellow onion varieties. From using raw slices to sautéing and imparting flavor into any dish, white onions have a wide range of applications in the kitchen.
Although not near as sweet as yellow onions or even red onions, white onions do have a long storage potential. From our experience, white onions tend to store significantly longer than red or yellow onions. This makes them a great option if storage potential is your primary goal when growing onions. After harvesting, you can easily get these to store for six months or more.
Yellow Bulbing Onions (granex)
We’ll make two distinctions between yellow onions here because of the differences with shape, sweetness, and storage potential. We’ll start with the “granex” type yellow onions. These are the flattened yellow onions that are often called “Vidalia” onions. Although they can technically only be considered “Vidalia” onions if they are grown near Vidalia, Georgia, you can grow the same flattened, sweet onions in your backyard garden.
These flattened yellow onions tend to be the sweetest of all the bulbing onions. Some varieties even have an almost sugary flavor to them with much less pungency than white or red onions. These onions are great when eaten raw, but they also caramelize beautifully due to the higher sugar content.
Although widely considered the best tasting onions, these usually don’t store very well. They’ll store a little longer than red onions, but not that much longer. You’ll want to be sure to use these a few months after harvesting, or else they might start to turn brown and rot.
Yellow Bulbing Onions (round)
Round yellow onions are usually not quite as sweet as the flattened or granex yellow onions, but they’re still sweeter than most red or white onion varieties. We really like the round yellow onions because they’re much easier to chop and slice. Sometimes the granex yellow onions (although delicious) can be awkward on a cutting board because of their flattened shape.
Because they’re not as sweet, round yellow onions do store much better than the flattened yellow onions. We can usually get the sweet round onions to store for close to six months or more. The round yellow onions are also usually not as big as the granex yellow onions, which can get quite massive.
Choosing the Best Bulbing Onion to Grow
You may be like us and want to grow some of each onion category listed above, and that’s great! But for those of you that have limited backyard garden space, you may want to prioritize red, white, or yellow onion varieties based on your wants or needs. If you’re wanting the best-tasting onions period, go with the flattened yellow onions or red onions. Just be aware that you’ll need to use them within a few months of harvesting.
If storage potential is a huge priority, go with the white onions or the round yellow onions. They won’t be as sweet as the flattened yellow onions or as spicy as the red onions, but you’ll be able to store them longer and won’t have to use them as quickly. And although red onions are more prone to bolting, all of them can bolt if temperature swings get a little wacky during the bulbing phase. Prioritize using the bolted onions first and save the ones that haven’t bolted for more long-term storage.
Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.