Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 34

GEORGIA Cooks
By Jane F. Garvey
So, so sweet!
Vidalia onion season is underway
T
oombs County farmer Mose
Coleman may have been the
first to plant Vidalia onions in
the 1930s. He discovered that his onions
were mild rather than hot and was able
to sell his crop for the then-princely sum
of $3.50 for a 50-pound bag. By comparison,
in 1931 a gallon of gasoline cost
10 cents, a loaf of bread was 8 cents and
average monthly rent was $18.
Coleman was on to something, and
other local farmers took notice.
Popularity of this sweet onion grew,
and in the 1970s, farmers began marketing
them nationally. Georgia's Vidalia
Onion Act of 1986 established the official
20-county region (13 whole counties and
parts of seven) in South Georgia where
the onions are grown. The U.S. Department
of Agriculture gave the onion's
name federal protection in 1989, and the
Vidalia onion was declared Georgia's
official state vegetable in 1990.
Today, a historical marker notes
the location of Coleman's field, where
restaurants and retail chains now stand.
Vidalia onions may be recognized
by their singular shape; they're flat on the
top and bottom, not ball-shaped.
These sweet, mild onions are available
from mid-April to August and are
prized by chefs and used in all types of
dishes, including
desserts. Both Vidalia
and Glennville hold
annual festivals
celebrating the iconic
veggie.
" [For] the 2022
season, approximately
10,000 acres of Vidalia
onions were planted
by 60 registered
farmers across 20
southeastern Georgia
counties, " says Cliff
Riner, Vidalia Onion Committee chairman and
research and development manager at G&R Farms
in Glennville. " Representing about 40 percent of the
sweet onion market across America, Vidalia onions
are sold in all 50 states and most of Canada. "
What makes them so sweet?
" They are the sweetest onion due to the unique
soil content in the area (its low sulfur levels,
specifically) and the seed grades that are used. [The]
Vidalia was the first sweet onion that really gained
market share, " says Troy Bland, CEO of Bland Farms
in Glennville. He is the grandson of Bland Farms
founder Raymond Bland and has worked in the
farm's fields all his life.
Bland Farms began planting the onions in 1982, and today is Georgia's
largest grower of Vidalia onions, with 2,000 planted acres supplying about
30 percent of the overall market share, Bland says.
Despite serious disease pressures, Bland Farms has grown
Storage tip:
You can store Vidalia onions by tying them
into the legs of clean pantyhose and knotting
between each onion. To use, cut below the knot
to release the onion. Kept this way, the onions
maintain their quality for a long time. Be sure to
keep them in a cool, dry area.
34 Georgia Magazine May 2022
an additional 120 acres of organic Vidalia onions for about
15 years.
The Vidalia onion is a significant contributor to Georgia
agriculture. The University of Georgia Extension calculates the
crop's value at $150 million, making it the state's most valuable
vegetable.
Jane F. Garvey is a Decatur-based freelance food, wine and
travel writer.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
COURTESY BLAND FARMS

Georgia Magazine - May 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - May 2022

Contents
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 4
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 5
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 6
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 7
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 8
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Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 34
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Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 38
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover4
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