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Bring on the Onions!

Date: 31/08/2004 | Posted by John Garton
The first commercial crop of onions to be grown in Jersey in recent years is due to be harvested this week. Workers at Woodside Farm, which is a member of the Genuine Jersey Products Association (GJPA), will be lifting more than one hundred tonnes of red and white onions. The crop will be dried and stored using specialist high-tech equipment the Trinity farm has recently purchased to expand its daffodil production.

Farmer Charles Gallichan says: “We recently stopped growing Jersey Royals so we could expand our flower production, which includes our local and export daffodil markets. This means we have had to invest heavily in new equipment to dry and store the bulbs and the process is similar to the one needed to dry and store onions once they have been harvested”.

It’s nearly five years since onions have been commercially grown in the Island although they are imported to sell locally. The new crop at Woodside was planted in March and will be followed on with an over wintered crop, which will be sown later this month.

Charles says: “Once the onions are lifted they need to dried in aerated containers at 30 degrees Celsius. Warm and humidity controlled air needs to be continually blown around the onions and the drying equipment alone cost us in the region of £80,000. Although this week’s crop will be lifted by hand we hope future crops will be harvested using the same machinery we use for the daffodils –ensuring we get the best return on our investment”.

Marketing Co-ordinator for the GJPA says: “This is a great example of the initiative and flair our members are using to diversify into different areas and develop new markets”.

Recent studies in the UK have shown that people on average consume 10 kilos of onions per year. Next week’s crop, which will be exclusively for local consumption, will provide enough onions to feed the population of Jersey for 7 weeks.

As well as providing flavour to a great many meals, onions also contain great nutritional value. Onions are rich in antioxidants which help delay or slow damage to cells and tissue in the body. Other studies have shown that eating onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Charles says: “People are very health conscious about what they eat these days and there has been a trend recently to move away from meals rich in carbohydrates. Because onions are so versatile they are often one of the first ingredients into the pan and different varieties means they can be either be grilled, sautéed, pickled, boiled, baked, fried or enjoyed eaten raw