Hybrid/Heirlooms Onions

Onions – Getting the Highest Nutrient Content, the Best Taste, and/or the Longest Storage Capacity

Onions are a super food because of their high nutrient content. Red ones are the most nutrient dense. Yellow is the 2nd runner up. White onions contain the least amount of good stuff like quercetin and other antioxidants.

Get Good Taste AND Nutrients

Indeed some of the sweet white onions with their high water content are truly delicious. BUT, you can get higher nutrient value and still have great taste with some of the early yellow onions like Texas Legend. (Dixondale offers them.) It’s a short day variety but with proper curing will last 3 to 4 months. (I’ve had it keep 5 months.)

Storage Onions

Even then, I still want home grown onions in my diet through at least the end of the year as I await the next growing season. Thus, an onion with long storage capacity is a must have for me.

For years I grew Copra as my storage onion to take me through December. Over the past few years it’s become a very popular onion and I see it offered more than any other for long term storage. That doesn’t mean that other varieties won’t store as well, it just means that it’s become popular and that’s what’s offered.

I’m trying to get away from it totally because it’s a hybrid. This year might be the year I’ve found the varieties that will replace Copra in my garden.

Why not hybrids?

Because studies show that hybrids of most any vegetable can’t hold a candle to nutrient high open pollinated varieties (grown properly).

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, most of that is due to hybrids being bred for traits like storage and increased production rather than nutrient value.

Studies also attest to a dramatic decline in nutrient content in most store bought vegetables and fruits. That can be due to the way they’re grown (soil, fertilizer, etc.). And of course, hybrids are more prevalent in commercial growing because they’re bred for traits that help the grower make more money. (They produce more and/or store better.)

As always, if we want the most nutrient dense food we can obtain, we’ll have to take responsibility and do a bit of looking around. It’s not always easy to find what we want. Thus, I thought what I found this year might also help you in your search.

Most (but not all) of the long keepers (6 to 8 months) seem to be long day onions.

In other words, those that start forming a bulb when daylight reaches 14 to 16 hours.

Not a problem for me here in zone 7, but finding a long keeper could be more difficult if you live in the south.

A quick way to find out what day length onions you can grow is to just visit the Dixondale site and check their map.  Here’s the url: http://www.dixondalefarms.com/category/onion_plants

Supporting Monsanto?

The onion varieties Candy, Century, Red Zeppelin, Savannah Sweet, Sierra Blanca, and Sterling onions are owned by Seminis which is owned by Monsanto. So when you buy seed or transplants of these onions you’re supporting Monsanto since that’s where the seed comes from — no matter who you buy it from.

To check all onions cut and paste this url : http://www.seminis-us.com/products/results/crops/onions/categories/all/regions/all

Originally I had provided the url to the page that shows all their vegetables, but it keeps changing. If you go to the above url you should be able to get the other vegetables as well.  I’d be interest in knowing if someone else has as much problem with the site as I do.

A Short Day Long Keeper

Red Creole is a short day red onion (very high nutrient content) that is said to keep 6 to 7 months.  I saw it on the Dixondale site.

An Intermediate Long Keeper

Australian Brown is said to store 7 months.  I saw seed available at Sustainable Seed Co. Probably available many more places.

3 Long Day Long Keepers

Clear Dawn

My friend and reader, Jack in New Jersey, introduced me to Clear Dawn.  He sent me samples from his crop in the summer of 2015 and they were GORGEOUS!

I tried to get seed last year but was unsuccessful.

Seed for this onion will be available at Fedco after they release their 2017 catalog in December.

They describe it as being “the best open-pollinated storage onion, — slightly smaller than Copra with thicker necks, darker bronze skins and the same great storage capacity.” Jack’s was NOT smaller than Copra, but larger.

New York Early Onion

Fedco states that it is a  “superior strain of Early Yellow Globe selected for storage until early spring.”

Available also from High Mowing Seed Company.  And by the way, High Mowing has a new website and has not worked out the problems at this writing.  To get to the vegetables they offer you have to click on the small 3 bars at the top left of the page; then click vegetables and then onions.

Dakota Tears Onion

Fedco description states these onions were more than 20 years in the making.  From an early April start they’ll mature in September and can keep until the following May under good storage conditions.

Also available immediately from High Mowing Seed Company.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve found a long storage variety that you’ve had success growing please add your valuable input in the comments area.

Also, please let me know if you’ve found this post helpful.

Related Posts:

Onions – Things to Consider Before You Order

Monsanto – Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them

Garden Seed – Heirloom or Hybrid – Information to Help Make the Choice


All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.


  • This is very helpful. I am trying some new varieties myself this year. Is it too early to winter sow some of them for setting out next spring?

  • Hi Theresa! I have found this post immensely helpful….thank you, thank you for taking the time to research. We have discussed onions at length. This year was a big learning curve not only in planting and harvesting but storage as well. I lost a lot of onions because of incorrect storage. Any words of wisdom on storage? I’m definitely going to check out the sites b/c I thought my only option for long storage was a hybrid …so this is great news.

    Can you comment on the trench between onion rows that dixondale recommends? My soil has and continues to improve so I know that’s the first and most important step. Well dug, organic material added and covered soil. With that being said is the trench of fertilizer an extra boost? I welcome any and all comments from everyone.

  • Well, I may not count because you know I am onion obsessed. What really struck me though was your storage times. I have been thinking I was doing something wrong since my onions were not lasting past December. But maybe it’s my onions, and not me!! I am right on the cusp is short day / long day – maybe I will try a long day variety this year

  • Thank you for this very helpful post. We garden organically here in east central Indiana, and are always looking for a better long-keeper onion. Also glad to know about the Monsanto-owned onion varieties —- Definitely do not want to support them.

  • Betty, the weather and day length (which trigger bulbing in onions) will determine whether or not you’re successful with onions started now.
    So if you start now — just don’t put all your eggs (onions in this case) in one basket.

    And protect them from severe temperature swings.

    To check the daylength in your area go to http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/Dur_OneYear.php and put in your state and city and it will give you the daylength for 365 days a year. Then choose your onion variety, determine how many hours of daylight are needed to trigger bulbing (if it’s warm enough) and then determine if you have enough time to get good growth before that happens. The more leaves an onion grows before bulbing, the bigger the bulb will be. (For example – the maximum number of leaves is usually 13 although it can be less in some varieties. If your onion only has time to grow 6 leaves before bulbing is triggered, you’ll get a tiny onion.)

    I’ll cover this in my book on onions. (Yes- I know — it’s taking forever to get it done, but now that Bill’s last show is behind me — I’m able to spend more time on it.) And your question will be answered with much more detail in that publication Betty.

    In the meantime, experiment —- then the forthcoming info will mean even more!

    LadyChef — remember that Dixondale is conventional. Most of what they talk about and recommend – I would never do. It’s just not necessary when you work with nature. That trench they talk about is one of those things.

    Nature doesn’t do “extra boosts” — she is exact and precision and knows exactly what is needed — but we don’t have to know all that stuff if we follow her. Improve your soil and your onions will continue to do fine.

    Regarding storage, review my post https://tendingmygarden.com/how-to-have-garden-onions-april-thru-january/ for more information.

    Kate, you’re doing ok if your onions are lasting into December. I sometimes get a few into January. As I mentioned in the post, there are a couple of varieties that have had longer storage time reported. But 6 to 7 months is still excellent for onions. (For example if you harvest in May and store until December.)

    And by the way, it’s normal to lose some during storage.

    I’ll be very interested in knowing how the long-day variety does for you. Look up your daylight hours and see if you have enough in NC to make cause bulbing in a long day onion. If not, you’ll just get a “spring onion” (no bulb).

    Mary, I’m glad you found the information helpful. I sure appreciate your taking time to comment.


  • Hi Theresa, I’ve been growing a variety here the past few years that you haven’t mentioned yet. It’s name is Mako’ which is an OP variety from Hungary. Hands down, it’s my top choice LT storage variety as it surpasses both Copra and Clear Dawn in the storage & size depts. last years Makos lasted into late February. Basic description: long day yellow, round globe shaped that easily grows to 4+” here. IMO, it’s the best kept onion secret in North America. Unfortunately, the seed aren’t available domestically here in the US but I was very successful @ planting some bulbs back last fall and harvested a good amount of seed. They were grown organically & as a stand alone crop for seed purity reasons.

  • Thank you Theresa,
    I would never have tried growing onions with out your post on winter sowing onions. That got me started and I just keep getting better and better each year. This year my Ruby Red Wing were the very best! I have them stored on my back deck under burlap and so far they don’t show any signs of deterioration ( I say knocking on wood), so we are still enjoying them very much. Thank you for fueling my desire to grow as much of my food as possible.
    Have a very Merry Christmas

  • This was great information.
    Now I will know where to search for the best for me and to stay away from Monsanto!
    Thank you.

  • Jack, I was so glad to see a comment from you!
    If you’ll recall, you also sent me two GORGEOUS Mako onions when you sent the Clear Dawns.
    I tired to find seed for the Mako but I couldn’t.

    If I remember correctly you got the seeds originally from a friend and grew those. Then out of that crop (two of which came to me) you grew some out for seed the following year.
    So glad you were successful and I can hardly wait to see what comes from the seed!

    Toni, I’m so pleased with your success with onions! Enjoy those onions as part of your Christmas meal!

    Mary Jean, glad this was helpful to you and appreciate your letting me know.

  • PS: I am still eating Stuttgarter onions. The seeds came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I’ve lost many of them, either got mushy or started to sprout, but am also still eating some.

    In the heat of summer, I stored them in a spare bedroom with the ceiling fan going. For the past 2 months, they’ve been out on the north-facing screened porch. I’m surprised they haven’t frozen yet as we’ve had a few below freezing nights. Guess the porch protects them.

    I will stagger my winter sowing starting this week and let you know how it goes.

  • I have planted onions for 20 years and never had any success. I planted 1 inch ,2 inch, on top with straw, fertilized, nothing!!! One year I had nothing so I buried them in leaves…that spring I had scalions, 18 inches of white and sturdy green tops, never again.

  • O’Hara – you’re probably doing something very simple that’s causing it.
    Are you planting the right day length onion for your area?
    Why are you fertilizing? What are you fertilizing with?
    Are you planting transplants (onion seedlings) or sets?
    When are you planting?

  • Theresa, I find all of your posts helpful,and I don’t even have a garden yet! I’ll be moving to a zone 6 location (from the tropics) soon, and am excited to start gardening there. For now, I’ve adopted ” never underestimate the power of a little” as my mantra, since I’m wading through a laborious project.

    I love what you do here! Thank you for all of the wonderful posts. xo

  • Made me smile Lisa!! Thank you for letting me know your thoughts!
    Keep me posted on your move and your new garden. I’ll be anxious to learn how you do. And email for help if you need it.

  • I came to your site researching winter rye. I appreciate what you are doing particularly your generous sharing. rod

  • Welcome to TMG Rod. I sure appreciate your taking time to share your thoughts.
    I hope to share a lot more in the future.
    Wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

  • Theresa,
    As you know l’m allergic to onions (all parts, including powder, can’t handle being in the house when others are cutting or cooking them), but I read this post anyway. I usually glean information from every post & other’s comments that help me with other areas of gardening. Reading of the success others have encourage me even if they are growing something I can’t eat.
    I want to thank you again for all you do to share & teach others to grow their own food. Every bite I eat of anything I grow is a Blessing.

  • Theresa, I bought from Dixondale, just planted yesterday. Red creole was one variety I planted, all of which were reds. I am more interested in perennial onions like bunching onions and potato onions.
    Any experience with those?

  • Gene, definitely try bunching onions and potato onions. Bunching onions are a great backup. I don’t know what’s going on with potato onions for the past few years. I grew them for years and they were fantastic. I could keep them as long as 1 1/2 years if necessary. For the past few years they’re not acting like potato onions in many ways.

  • I’m on the west coast of BC just above Washington and an ideal onion for this area is called Kelsae onions. I buy them as seedlings and I’m not sure if they are a hybrid or not, but they keep really well and are huge.

    It’s April here and I am still using them. They are firm and juicy and still in great shape. Anything that I see that is going soft I just dehydrate for soups and stews.

    I tried the Seminis link above, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

    Thanks for all your insights.

  • Heather thanks for great input on Kelsae onions.
    Also thanks for letting me know about the urls. The website was changed thus the urls changed.
    I went back in and put the current url address for their onions. I can’t get the other address (for the page that shows all the vegetables) to work.
    Try the new address provided. Please let me if you have trouble.

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