Walla Walla Onions
Walla Walla Onions are a Spanish-type sweet onion of Corsican origin. A Frenchman, Pete Pieri, brought them to America in the late 1800s. By legend he acquired the onion during a tour of duty in the French army. After immigrating to the Walla Walla area of Washington State he introduced them to several farmers in the region who were of Italian descent. The large size and early yields of the new onion impressed the Italians who initially called it the “French Onion” in recognition of Pieri. Later the onion was renamed as the ‘Walla Walla’ as it became the dominant cultivar grown in the region.
Since the 1950s the Walla Walla onion has gained wide popularity across the Pacific Northwest for gardeners and chefs. It tolerates our mild winters and it produces large, succulent bulbs for a mid-summer harvest. The flesh is “sweet” (a technical misnomer since ‘sweet onions’ haven’t any more sugar that other onion types) and if grown in the right soils it can be eaten raw with relish. (I make liberal use of hardwood ash from my brick oven as a soil amendment for onions.) These characteristics make the Walla Walla a fine onion for Northern gardeners who have less success with shorter-day sweet varieties such as the Granex onion (aka ‘Vidalia/Maui Maui’).
Walla Walla onions do have one significant flaw. They don’t keep very long. Careful curing and storage will keep a Walla Walla for a few short months. Store bought Walla Wallas have usually been refrigerated to extend their storage at the expense of their delicate flavor.
My crop of Walla Wallas is in good form despite repeated April frosts that pushed some other onion varieties into despair. The harvest/curing of the 08 crop has begun.
Vegetables of Interest, 2008