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In the Short Rows: - Vidalia Onion Storage and Handling Tips

In the Short Rows:

It’s Vidalia Onion season! Growing up on my family’s farm, I have many memories of what onion season looked like for usharvesting a few onions early to “sample”, visiting the fields to check out the harvest, helping grade onions with my dad, bagging/ boxing orders, and eventually working in our farm office taking and filling orders.

This commodity is perhaps the sweetest addition to Georgia agriculture. Onions make up approximately 12.6% of total vegetable production in Georgia and have a farm gate value of approximately $168,031,196. Vidalia Onions are protected by Federal Marketing Order 955, which dictates the growing region as well as marketing and research practices surrounding the famous onion.

The growing region consists of 13 whole counties- Montgomery, Toombs, Wheeler, Telfair, Tattnall, Appling, Emanuel, Bulloch, Candler, Evans, Treutlen, Jeff Davis, and Bacon- and parts of 7 other counties-Laurens, Long, Jenkins, Dodge, Pierce, Wayne, and Screven, for a total of 20 counties. The marketing order also establishes specific varieties of onions that can be deemed a Vidalia Onion- “all varieties of Allium cepa of the hybrid yellow granex, granex parentage or any other similar variety recommended by the committee and approved by the Secretary, that are grown in the production area.”

Once you get your hands on some sweet Vidalia Onions, proper storage is the key to making them last several months. Vidalias contain a higher water content than other varieties, contributing to their characteristic sweet taste, but shortening their shelf life and making them prone to bruises. They should always be kept in a cool, dry place. Storing them in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer is an easy way to help preserve them. Wrap each onion in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture, then place those wrapped onions into a brown paper bag before placing them into the

drawer. A tip I remember vividly from packing orders on our farm is storing the Vidalia onions in pantyhose- yep, you read that right, pantyhose. Carefully drop the onion into the pantyhose and tie a knot in the hose between the onions. Keep them stored in a cool, dry, place. You can also freeze or dry the onions if you intend on cooking them. To freeze, chop and place in a freezer bag, or peel, wash, core and freeze whole. To dry onions, chop evenly, spread out on a baking sheet, and bake at your oven’s lowest temperature setting. Take them out when thoroughly dry, but not yet brown. These can be stored at room temperature in airtight containers.

Store onions and potatoes separately- the potatoes will make your onions go bad faster!

Use these tips and enjoy your Vidalia Onions for the next several months. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Montgomery County Extension Office at 912-583-2240.

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