This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
No country in the world produces finer onions than are grown around the Bay of San Francisco. The rich alluvial soil and the peculiarity of the seasons and climate in this part of California seem to be specially adapted for growing both the bulbs and the seed of the onion in the greatest perfection. Great quantities of the Yellow Dan-vers and Yellow Dutch are raised chiefly by Portuguese for the city market. I have been in Egypt and Holland, as well as in Spain, but in none of these lands, the native home of this ancient deity of the kitchen, have I ever seen onions to excel our California bulbs, either in beauty of form or fineness of flavor. One who has great experience in onion culture, both in the Eastern States and in California, writes in The Pacific Rural Press, that "the onion bulbs produced in California are much more perfect in every particular than any grown elsewhere on this continent. Californian onion seed, when planted in the same field with seed of the same kind of Eastern and European growth, produces larger and finer onions than the latter, having less scallions and ripening earlier."
This fact is of especial interest to onion growers, and is, no doubt, to be accounted for by the circumstance that the crop of onion seed usually ripens here about a month in advance of seed grown in the East. To test these points, California onion seed has been planted along with the best Connecticut and English grown seed of the same kind, at Rochester, N. Y., and Detroit, and the result was such that the seed of California growth was acknowledged to be superior to the seed of Eastern growth, even by those who were considerably prejudiced against it. Our mild winters and genial spring and summer allow the seed vessels of plants to be fully developed and all seeds to be perfectly formed and ripened; our cold nights rendering them also quite hardy. Then, the long, dry summer, without rain, permits of the thorough drying of the seed in the open air. These are advantages which ought to give onion and other vegetable seeds grown in California the same preference in the market that our wheat (seed) now enjoys.
The seed farms in the vicinity of this city are carefully cultivated, being owned by reliable individuals of intelligence and experience.
From the large quantity of onion and lettuce seed sent East last year, and the extensive orders received from several of the leading seed establishments of America, it is evident that vegetable seeds, particularly onion and lettuce seed, grown in this State, will soon come to be in great demand as its superior excellence comes to be more generally known. The cost of suitable lands, the expense of labor and freight, and the destructiveness of the "gopher," which is the pest of this fertile land, however, seriously curtail the profits of the seed grower in California. But against these he expects to place the superior quality of his seeds, and a rapidly increasing demand for them, both in the Northern and Southern States. The onion growers of California prefer seed of native growth to any other, for the most part growing what they require themselves.
San Jose, Santa Clara Co., Cal., June 3, 1876.