By the last week of February, one leading shipper of Texas onions expects to have a better handle on the extent of damage from the early February freezes.

Onion crops face freeze, heat woes

Andy Nelson
Markets Editor

So what’s so special about the last week of February?

“There’s a full moon Feb. 18, and that’s when we start to see the first generation of seed stems,” the importer said.

This piqued my interest, to say the least. I’ve heard about ocean tides and werewolves and their reliance on the moon, but onions?

The grower didn’t know why it was so, so I made some scientific inquiries with the aid of my esteemed colleague Mr. Google.

(Bear with me — I promise there will be a “serious” observation involving Mexican onions following this digression.)

The first thing an “onions full moon” search turned up was a page from about.com’s site devoted to Pagans and Wiccans, which teaches you how to weave a “magical onion braid” when the moon is full, and which prayers to recite while doing it.

There were also several finds that involved full moons and the satirical online newspaper The Onion. My favorite was a 2009 photo with the caption, “Stevie Nicks Dancing Alone on Beach Under Full Moon.”

It wasn’t until page 2 of the search page that I found that there are, indeed, several reputable-looking sites devoted to the cultivation, harvest and storage of onions and other vegetables based on the cycles of the moon.

It all has to do with the moon's gravitational effect on the flow of moisture in soil and plants.

I believe my shipper source is vindicated.

Now, on to the more serious onion stuff I promised. An importer I talked to recently said he expects to hear a lot of chatter this year about the shipment of Mexican onions that bill themselves as sweet but really aren’t.

An early flood of product from south of the border this year (at least two weeks before most Mexican granex deals were set to begin) depressed markets in late January and early February.

It’s frustrating enough when U.S. marketers don’t know what to expect, volume-wise, because Mexican shippers hold their cards so close.

What made it worse this year, the importer told me, is that a hybrid grano — globe-shaped compared to the flatter granex — was stealing market share from genuinely sweet Peruvians still in the market.

“I got the test back from the lot I bought, and it’s as hot as any (non-granex onions),” he said. “I think it’s something that will be brought to light this year.”

If it is, it will be yet another chapter in the ongoing battle over sweet versus hot, this certification body over that one. What started as a Vidalia-centered debate, it seems, is crossing international borders.

E-mail anelson@thepacker.com

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