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How sweet is ‘Sweetie Sweet?’ Lab testing to provide answers

NNBW staff

Peri & Sons Farms of Yerington hopes scientific testing will lift its autumn onion harvest from commodity status and make its onion something special in the eyes of consumers.

It’s contracted with National Onion Labs Inc. to participate in the NOL Flavor Certification Program. The goal: grow and protect the category called mild, sweet onions.

Lab workers go into the fields, remove onions from sample plots, then map the location with GPS technology, says Tim Cummings, director of marketing at Peri & Sons.

Back at the lab in Georgia, the onions get tested for sugar content and pungency. But the testing process looks beyond sweetness to consider the total chemical profile of the onion.

The sweet onion category has grown significantly in recent years, says company owner David Peri, and as a result, many companies are marketing Spanish yellow cooking onions as “sweet onions,” ruining the distinctiveness of the sweet onion in the minds of consumers.

Peri & Sons markets its brand, Sweetie Sweet onions, through retail buyers.

The National Onion Laboratory allows certified onions to be marketed with its Certified Extra Sweet or Certified Sweet designations, says a laboratory spokesman.

Peri & Sons Farms grows and ships more than 2,700 acres of onions from its Nevada and California operations. Peri says the company’s sweet onions thrive on the warm days and cool nights in the high desert around Yerington.

And while the Sweetie Sweet name sometimes translates into into a higher price, fluctuations in supply and demand cause prices to vary, says Cummings, especially when tons of produce arrives from Chile or Peru.

Established 27 years ago, Peri & Sons employs 230, but that spikes to 1,200 during harvest season.