Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - New Mexico's sweet onions are hitting the big time in June.
"This summer, sweet onions grown in New Mexico will be promoted at 32 Super Wal-Mart stores in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Arizona," said David Lucero, marketing specialist with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
The Wal-Mart stores also will carry regular yellow, white and red onions grown in the state. Other major grocery retailers usually carry New Mexico-grown onions as well, he said.
During the first weekend in June, 15 Super Wal-Marts, including one in Las Cruces, will feature sweet onion relish tasting and sweet onion recipe handouts. During the second weekend in June, all 32 stores will feature the sweet onion marketing promotions.
"This is a good way to promote the sweet onions," Lucero said. "We're really trying to fill a niche for them."
To get consumers clamoring for the sweet onions, the New Mexico Dry Onion Commission has launched a marketing campaign, complete with a distinctive NuMex Sweet box and tiny turquoise and red stickers to label each onion. Shoppers looking for the sweet varieties should look also for the Carzalia Sweets.
Three varieties developed at NMSU -- NuMex Starlite, NuMex Dulce and NuMex Sweetpak -- are marketed under the NuMex Sweet label.
The three varieties all have a similar mild taste, but they mature and are harvested at different times in the early part of the season, said researcher Marisa Wall with NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station.
"These varieties are all mild," she said. "They are good for eating fresh on salads and hamburgers. They're also great in stir-fry."
Wall said based on what she's seeing in her sweet onion research plots, this year's onions should be high quality.
She's hoping to release two more onion varieties for commercial use. One of the varieties matures in late June and early July, while the other matures in mid-July.
She said these later-maturing varieties should help New Mexico growers fill a hole in the market. "In late June and July, we should have little competition," she said.
As it is, New Mexico growers provide 60 percent of the nation's fresh market onions in June, July and August.
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