It is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Harvest here in our verdant valley. These delectable, fragile onions are only around for a short time each year and have to be used promptly or preserved as they don’t store like the average yellow, white or red onions we are familiar with in the USA. I will be getting my 25 pounds to dehydrate this weekend; it is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival weekend too.
Last November, during our tour through Germany we spent a day in Emmeloord, Netherlands. (This a ‘polder‘ – land reclaimed from the sea.) The perfectly flat terrain goes on for miles and miles where sheep graze and food crops grow with agriculture related businesses being the primary form of employment. It is below sea level and the locals enjoy relating the marvel of their home as much as winery peeps in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) like to expound upon the Missoula Floods that have provided us with excellent soil for vinifera grape growing, amongst other crops. Hey, we are all human, right?
One of the stops of the day was an onion packing plant; it was an excellent experience. Set up like the one I have been through in Washington State: trucks backed in to unload, storage bins for the onions, long lines of conveyor belts sizing equipment and bagging/boxing. What made it interesting to me was that my American perspective was large onions that are either in pre-weighed 5 or 10 pound net bags or loose in the grocery store is the norm. From the Waterman Onion Packing facility yellow, red and pink (yup, just like wine: white, red and pink) onions the size of large shallots are packaged into net bags of about five onions for grocery store purchasers or graded and sized for bulk shipping to Asian and African nations. Those destined for Africa were to be sold individually (pieced) as money and/or preservation are in short supply in many places. Our American onions are less expensive too; sadly, we don’t see how well we have it most of the time.
The pink onions were touted as ‘sweet’ and, being from Sweet country, we had to try one. A pocket knife was procured and layers were peeled for each that wanted a taste. Although sweeter than the average onion and great tasting, they are not as sweet as our beloved Walla Walla Sweet Onions.
I had a blast going through the packaging plant while it was shut down for lunch. My white jacket was filthy in short order (I should not be trusted with white clothing) but none of the guys got dusty red jackets of out it…hmmmm. Since we have been traveling through Washington during potato planting I recognized the huge bulk sacs for shipping at two places where I hadn’t see them before. The gypsy in me took advantage of some traveling opportunities while the geeky side is content with the new info.
By the way, feel free to mix and match your yellow/red/pink onions with your wines. Cheers!