Introduced by David Murray, Head Gardener for the Marquis of Ailsa, at Culzean Castle, Maybole in 1887 and catalogued by Sutton & Sons in 1895. Onion "Ailsa Craig" is named after the Scottish Island, a distinctive dome- shaped island-rock, which rises sharply from the Firth of Clyde. Ailsa Craig Prizewinner is a popular exhibition variety onion. This reliable favorite produces large, globe-shaped onion with golden, straw coloured skin pure white flesh with a mild flavour. With outstanding quality and excellent keeping qualities, it is much loved by both home gardeners and exhibitors producing weighty onions perfect for the kitchen or show bench. This is a Heritage variety and great all-rounder, Ailsa Craig still takes some beating. Few vegetables have more uses in the kitchen or are in such constant demand than onions. Nowadays we can obtain onions fresh from the garden or out of store almost all year round from just a couple of carefully-timed sowings. As a standard maincrop Ailsa Craig offers excellent quality and a very good storage life: from an August harvest, they will store well throughout winter until March.
Preparation: Choose an open, sunny site with good drainage which has preferably been dug and manured in the previous autumn. Do not plant or sow on freshly manured bed. Lime if the soil is acid. Avoid planting in an area where the previous crop was of the onion family. Many exhibitors grow their show onions in a permanent bed in order to build up fertility, but in the kitchen plot it is a much better idea to change the site annually. Apply a general fertilizer if needed and rake the surface when the soil is reasonably dry. Tread over the area and then rake again to produce a fine, even tilth.
Timing: Sow in Autumn or Late Winter to Spring Seeds can be sown direct in autumn to be harvested in 46 weeks to produce large bulbs (not advisable in very cold areas) Otherwise sow in February under cloches or direct March to April and harvest in 22 weeks. In cold areas and for exhibition bulbs sow under glass in December to January, harden off in March and transplant outdoors in April.
Sowing: Sow very thinly in 12mm (½in) deep drills, leaving about 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12in) between rows. Water very gently if the soil is dry, and cover with soil. When large enough to handle, thin the crop in two stages. Close spacing will give smaller onions than wider spacings. Lift the seedlings carefully – the soil should be moist and all thinnings removed to deter onion fly. (They may be used as spring onions) Thin spring-sown seedlings first to 25mm (1in) then when the seedlings have straightened up to 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4in) apart. Thin autumn sown onion seedlings to about 25mm (1in) in the autumn. Further thin to about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4in) between plants in the Spring. Seedlings raised under glass should be transplanted 4in (10cm) apart, leaving 9in (23cm) between the rows. The roots must fall vertically in the planting hole and the bulb base should be about 12mm (½in) below the surface. Plant firmly.
Cultivation: Hoe carefully or weed by hand – dense weed growth will seriously affect yield. Water if the weather is dry (not otherwise) and feed occasionally. Feed an autumn-sown crop in March. Mulching is useful for cutting down the need for water and for suppressing weeds. Break off any flower stems which appear. Stop watering once the onions have swollen and pull back the covering earth or mulch to expose the bulb surface to the sun.
Harvesting: When the bulb is mature the foliage turns yellow and topples over. (Some gardeners bend over the tops as the leaves start to yellow). Leave them for about 2 weeks and then carefully lift with a fork on a dry day.
Storing: Inspect the bulbs carefully – all damaged, soft, spotted and thick-necked onions should be set aside for kitchen use or freezing. The rest can be stored. The onions which are not for immediate use must be thoroughly dried. Spread out the bulbs on sacking or in trays – outdoors if the weather is warm and sunny. Drying will take 7 to 21 days, depending on the size of the bulbs and the air temperature.. Store in trays, net bags, tights or tie to a length of cord as onion ropes. Choose a cool and well-lit place; they will keep until late spring
Lifting Onions for Exhibition: The onions should be lifted about five to six weeks prior to the show in order to ensure they have reached optimum size. Before you lift them peel back any broken skins as best you can and then leave in the ground for a few more days before lifting so that the bulbs can fill out again. Once harvested place on wire racks in the garden to dry, (in the event of rain cover with polythene and then remove once the rain stops). Once the roots and tops have withered you can select your chosen sets and trim away the dead roots, cut back the tops to three or four inches and then wash carefully with a cloth using warm water and a dash of washing up liquid. Once clean, dry the onion bulbs carefully and cover with a liberal helping of talcum powder to facilitate even colour once the drying process finishes. Wrap these bulbs in newspaper or tissue and again store in a safe place until a few days prior to the show. Before the show simply wipe the talcum powder away carefully and tie the tops with raffia close to the bulb before trimming away the surplus. If you are concerned the skin around the base of the neck will crack when tied, a little water rubbed around this skin will soften it whilst you tie it and prevent cracking. Stand your prepared sets in trays of sawdust until the show day when you can display them according to the show schedule.
Nomenclature: Introduced in 1887 by David Murray, gardener for the Marquis of Ailsa. It is named after the Scottish Island, Ailsa Craig, a distinctive dome- shaped island-rock, which rises sharply from the Firth of Clyde. Two miles in circumference and rising to 338 metres, it is also known as Paddy's Milestone owing to its position as a landmark en route from Ireland. The island was the heart of an ancient volcano, its rock exhibiting fine columnar structure and was renowned as the source of a superior micro-granite used to fashion curling stones. The name comes from the Gaelic ‘Creag Ealasaid’, meaning Elizabeth's (some say Ailstair's) rock. "Ailsa" is pronounced "ale-sa", with the first syllable stressed.
|Packet Size||1 gram|
|Average Seed Count||250 Seeds|
|Cultivar||Ailsa Craig Prizewinner|
|Common Name||White Bulbing, Exhibition Onion.
Heritage (English 1887)
|Other Common Names||No|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Spacing||Thin to about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches)|
|Time to Harvest||Autumn-sown - 46 weeks, Spring-sown - 22 Weeks|
|Position||Choose an open, sunny site with good drainage which has preferably been dug and manured in the previous autumn.|
|Time to Sow||Sow in Autumn or Late Winter to Spring|
|Notes||Stored seed viability: 1-2 years. Yield from a 10 ft row: 4kg (8lb). Stored seed viability: 1-2 years.|