The 'Red Creole' onion originally became a standard crop onion in Louisiana USA in the 1850's and was the first choice field cultivar until the First World War. Since its heyday at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Red Creole Onion has declined from a standard crop onion to a regional backyard variety. Moreover, its place in home gardens since the 1980's has been increasingly supplanted by sweet onion varieties. However, the Red Creole has been of such historical importance that heirloom seed companies feel obliged to maintain seed lines for this variety. Well adapted and very widely planted, today it is particularly appreciated by home gardeners throughout Europe.
Onion ‘Red Creole’ is a medium maturing, open-pollinated short day red onion. This fantastic, heritage variety has a clear, spicy-sweet flavour of medium heat, this onion develops a sweet, mellow flavour when caramelised. It is considered by many to be the ideal cooking onion, for incorporation with peppers and celery in composite dishes and stews.
The Red Creole Onion firm fleshed onion, with modest-sized thick flat bulbs and red colouration. Depending upon growing area the plant averages from 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) in height. Its drought tolerance, resistant to purple blotch and light frost, as well as its superior keeping qualities after harvest gain it a well-earned reputation as an especially hardy onion. Although they are not suited to over-wintering outdoors, it is an excellent storage onion when mature.
'Red Creole' is a great short day onions. This means they only require 10 to 12 hours of sunlight to grow bulbs, while long day onions need 14 to 16 hours. Best sown in early spring, they take between 100 to 160 days to mature.
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 fertiliser 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 February to April
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 24 weeks. In cold areas and for exhibition bulbs sow early under glass in January, harden off in March and transplant outdoors in April.
Sow very thinly in 1.2cm (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 2.5cm (1in) then when the seedlings have straightened up to 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4in) apart.
Thin autumn sown onion seedlings to about 2.5cm (1 inch) in the autumn. Further thin to about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) 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 1cm (½in) below the surface. Plant firmly.
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: August to September
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.
Inspect the bulbs carefully – all damaged, soft, spotted and thick-necked onions should be set aside for immediate use in the kitchen or for freezing. The rest can be stored and will need to 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. Avoid storing whole onions in the refrigerator, which has a damp environment. Do not store onions next to potatoes. Both potatoes and onions emit a gas which causes them both to sprout and spoil faster.
Store the whole onions in a dry place, in an area where there is good air circulation. They should also be stored in a cool, dark area to prevent them from sprouting and rotting too soon as a result of light and humidity. Store the onions in trays, net bags, tights or tie to a length of cord as onion ropes and they will keep until late spring.
Prior to Linnaean taxonomy the Onion family was spread over four genera. The bulb Onion, Shallot and Welsh Onion were found in the Cepa genera. Garlic was placed in the Allium genera, Leeks were listed as Porrum and the Chive was classed as Schoenoprasum, its current species name.
The genus name, Allium comes from the Celtic All, meaning 'pungent', the species name cepa, is from the Roman cepae, meaning 'onion'.
The common name of onion seems to come from the Latin Unio or one, signifying that the bulb is of one unit.
Named 'Red Creole' onion originally became a standard crop onion in Louisiana USA in the 1850's The English word 'Creole' derives from the French créole. The name originally referred to the descendants of European colonists who had been born in the colonies (and with that meaning the term was used in the Spanish colonies throughout the colonial period).
In the United States, the words "Louisiana Creole" refers to people of any race or mixture thereof who are descended from colonial French La Louisiane and colonial Spanish Louisiana (New Spain) settlers before the Louisiana region became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Both the word and the ethnic group derive from a similar usage, beginning in the Caribbean in the 16th century, which distinguished people born in the French, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies from the various new arrivals born in their respective, non-Caribbean homelands. Some writers from other parts of the country have mistakenly assumed the term to refer only to people of mixed racial descent, but this is not the traditional Louisiana usage.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 700 Seeds Seed Form Natural Common Name Red Bulbing Onion
Heritage (USA 1850's)
Family Alliaceae Genus Allium Species cepa Cultivar Red Creole Hardiness Hardy Biennial Spacing Thin to about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) 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 Germination 21 days Harvest Yield from a 10 ft row: 4kg (8lb). Time to Harvest Autumn-sown - 46 weeks, Spring-sown - 24 Weeks Notes Viability for correctly stored seed: 1 to 2 years.