Experimental Homestead

Mr. Wintertons Remarkable Potato Onion!



This past Spring Kelly Winterton of Utah, an amateur gardener turned onion breeder, generously sent me 8 bulbs of his new Potato Onion the Green Mountain Multiplier.  This newly introduced variety was grown by Mr. Winterton from seeds of the Yellow Potato Onion.  Potato Onions don’t go to seed very often, but some years back his did go to seed and he was adventurous enough to plant the seeds to see what would happen; what happened was new larger Potato Onions in several different colors.  The Green Mountain was the first to be shared out to other people.  Most of the others are still under selection and propagation with one new White variety being offered this year.

Kelly has said that every new variety he is growing from the seeds of the Yellow Potato Onion have been larger than the parent.  He thinks the greater size of the new onions may be due to freedom from virus that the Yellow Potato Onion has picked up over it’s very long career.  Since Potato Onions are grown from divisions instead of seed, it seems plausible that they could accumulate virus.  Plants grown out from seed apparently do not carry on viral infections of the parents, so growing from seed would be a way to potentially “cleanse” the Potato Onion occasionally.   The other method I know of is to heat the plants until the virus dies, sort of a fever.  I’m not sure if the fever technique would work for an onion, but it is used on fruit trees.  The viral theory seems plausible, but whatever the case, the onions are truly large for potato onions.

When I received the bulbs in spring, they were very firm and did not look like they had suffered in storage over winter in the least.  I grew them out as usual without any overly special coddling.  The largest specimens are over three inches in diameter, and there are quite a few pretty large ones.  The Smallest one is one and one eighth inches.  Coincidentally, I also have the largest Yellow Potato Onions I’ve ever grown this year, but out of a pretty big crop, none are quite as large as the Green Mountains.  My larger than usual Yellow Potato Onions are due for the most part to my deliberate planting out of the smallest onions from last year’s crop which makes for fewer, but larger onions. Continue reading

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff | , , | 9 Comments

The Historic Potato Onion: A compilation of early references



I compiled a bunch of references while researching Potato Onions which are posted below.  It is also available as a The Historic Potato Onion- A compilation of early references, which also has links.  First though, I have some notes on my impressions and observations on reading through these references.  Note that there are many different planting dates and methods of cultivation.  That is to be expected, I suppose, given the widely varying geographies that the authors are referring to.  See also my previous detailed blog post on Potato Onions,  for more details about the onions and their culture, which is probably a better place to start your Potato Onion adventure if you are new to them.

Apparently planting smaller Onions makes fewer, but larger Onions than if larger Onions are planted.  I believe what is usually being referred to here is as follows.   The Potato Onion has a number of “eyes” growing inside of each Onion.  I believe each of these “eyes” probably forms a new  bulb each of which also has more “eyes”.  The larger Onions have more eyes and therefore produce more bulbs when planted although of smaller size due to competition within the plant itself.  The smaller Onions having fewer eyes produce fewer Onions but larger ones due to decreased competition for soil resources.  There are also however references which say that one small Onion will grow into just one large Onion.  I don’t think I have ever seen this happen with the yellow potato Onion variety that I have, so I suspect that it is either incorrect or that there is a variety which does behave this way.  It is also possible that I just have not planted small enough sets to observe the one-small-into-one-large phenomenon or, further, that I have observed it and simply forgot.  I will be observing the results of growing different sizes of bulbs more closely this year.  The idea, as some authors mention, is to grow the right proportion of large and small bulbs to assure larger ones for eating while yet retaining enough small bulbs for good seed.  Potato Onions often have internal division where the walls of skin between the “cloves” or main “eyes” have dried off.  Some mention is made of dividing them along these lines for planting.  I have done so, but not in a very observant manner. Continue reading

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 5 Comments