California Based Harris Fresh Delivers Red Onions to Garden Fresh
One of the suppliers that pack and ship red onions to Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. is Harris Fresh, located in Coalinga, CA. Doug Stanley, who grew up on a family farm, is the General Manager at Harris Fresh and has been with the company for 14 years.
“A lot happens before putting seed in the ground to put the whole process together,” Doug explains. “It takes five to six years of research and development before a variety is ready to be in field production. Sometimes it’s hard to replace old varieties when there are new ones. Some of the old varieties are good producers and give a nice color, but may not produce a high yield crop.”
Due to drought, Doug says, “We are not using home farming for onions anymore because of water constraints. So, we now purchase onions with outside growers. We look for ground with good fertility, texture, and well-drained soil before selecting growers.”
“Onions like 75-80 degrees F weather and do not grow below 41 degrees. When you get above 93 degrees, onions will shut down and the leaf will close and the onion will quit growing,” says Doug.
There are three types of varietal groups: Over winter (short day), storage (long day), and intermediate. Over winter, also known as short day varieties grow in the lower latitudes. These onions are planted in fall and harvested in spring. Storage varieties, also known as long day, are planted in the spring and grow throughout the summer. They have a darker robust color-red or purple, and are usually a deeper full globe shape. Usually the long day varieties are bitter, and not as sugary. In the middle is a hybrid, called intermediate.
Garden Fresh receives all three varietal groups for a fresh, year-round supply. Doug explains that the supply from April 20 – June 20 is the short day variety; June 20-July 20 is intermediate; and the rest of the year is long day variety. Doug says, “They all have subtle differences in their flavor profiles. Some will be bitter or sweeter. So variety-wise, they have a little different makeup of how Mother Nature made them. Onions grown in the San Joaquin Valley are generally on the milder side.”
The onions arrive in semi-trucks to the Huron, CA, 100% dry onion facility where they pack and ship. “First thing we look for is quality as far as material, blemishes, misshapes, and decay,” says Doug. It’s done by hand and with a new facility in Coalinga, they will have digital technology to help do some of that work. After quality checks are completed, the onions are sorted by size and divided into categories, based on weight and diameter. The “winter” and “intermediate” varieties don’t have as good a shelf life as long day onions, so they ship as soon as they are packed to ensure freshness.
For more information about Harris Fresh, visit http://www.harrisfresh.com