The best way to narrow down the choice of varieties is to
answer a few questions about what you want from your onion
crop. These are dealt with below.
TYPES OF ONIONS
This page deals with two types of onions, normal onions
which mature in August and September and Autumn (Japanese)
onions which mature in June and July, a month or two before
Normal onions can be stored and eaten over winter but
Autumn Planted (Japanese) onions need to be eaten as they
are harvested. Their use is to provide onions well before
the normal onions rather than replace them.
ONION SETS OR ONION SEEDS
Onion seeds are exactly as they sound, seeds which are
sown and then grow into onions for harvest. Onion sets
look like small onions and that is what they are. Plant them
and they will grow into fully sized onions. For the beginner
gardener there is no contest, onion sets win hands down
every time. They grow quicker and are more tolerant of soil
and weather conditions.
So why might you want to grow onions from seed? The first
reason is cost. If you are growing lots of onions then seed
is undoubtedly cheaper. The second reason is choice of
variety. Far more onion varieties are available as seeds
compared to the limited varieties available as sets. We prefer to grow from onion sets because it is so easy
but the choice is yours.
Different varieties of onions have different characteristics
and the choice is one of personal preference. The key
differences are listed below.
TASTE AND SIZE
Different varieties have a different taste, the principal
difference being how strong the onion taste is. Some like a
mild onion taste, and this is the case in Mediterranean
areas, others prefer a strong taste. Read the label and
investigate on the internet for the taste of different onion
varieties. The common varieties are listed at the end of
this page in
alphabetic order with their taste characteristics and their
Some onion varieties definitely keep better over winter
compared to others, these are listed at the bottom of this
This is purely personal preference however it is clear that
some onions look better than others either because of their
shape or their colour. This can be important in food
preparation. For example red onions can add a splash of
colour to a salad.
LONG AND SHORT DAY ONIONS
In the UK the distinction between long and short day onions
is rarely made. Click here
for an explanation of this term and why it may be important
in your choice of onion variety.
TYPES OF ONION SETS
Almost all onion sets produce very good results
nowadays, but there are a couple of things to look out for.
First, heat treated onion sets are best of all. The do cost
a bit more than normal onion sets bit are far less prone to
here for more information on what bolting is as far as
onions are concerned.
The second, rather surprising fact, is that small onion
sets are less likely to bolt compared the healthy looking
CHARACTERISTICS OF COMMON ONION VARIETIES
||Red / white
||Red / white
Now you've chosen your variety of onion seed or set the next
step is to plant or sow them.
Click here to go there
now, or go to the bottom of this page for more information
about growing onions.