Types and Varieties Of Onions


Brown Onion

Brown onions which have a brown or almost yellow skin and creamy flesh are usually strongly flavoured and are suitable for cooking. This is the most widely used onion. With its pungent aroma and strong flavour it is a good all-round onion. Choose firm, blemish-free onions and avoid any that have green shoots.

There are many different varieties grown in Australia. Some examples are below:


Grown in the Riverina New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria,Western Australia and Tasmania. It is an open pollinated, intermediate day variety. It is planted from May through to July and is harvested from early January to early March, depending on location.

Murray Brown

The Murray Brown is grown across South Australia. It is an open pollinated long day variety. The Murray Brown is planted in September and is harvested in February through to March.

Red Onion

Red onions, sometimes called (incorrectly) Spanish Onions have purplish red skin and white flesh tinged with red. These onions tend to be medium to large in size and can have a mild to sweet flavour, but after being stored for short time can become quite pungent. They are often consumed raw, grilled or lightly cooked with other foods, or added as colour to salads. They tend to lose their redness when cooked.

They can be stored 3 to 4 months under ideal conditions.
Some examples of different varieties are:


Grown in the Riverina New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. It is an open pollinated intermediate day variety . It is planted from mid May to late June and is harvested from late December to mid January.


Grown across South Australia, across Victoria and in Western Australia Redwing is an intermediate day hybrid. Mainly planted from August to September and harvested from February through to March.

Red Emperor

Red Emperor is grown in the Riverina in New South Wales and in Tasmania. It is an intermediate day hybrid variety. Crops grown in the Riverina are planted in late May and harvested in early January whilst the crops grown in Tasmania are planted in mid-September and harvested in mid February.

White Onion

White onions, are considered to be the strongest in flavour after brown onions. On average the Australian consumer buys less white and more brown and red onions. The varieties vary in size, skin characteristics and flavour.

Varieties include:


Grown in the Riverina New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. It is a hybrid intermediate day variety planted from late May to mid August and harvested from late December to mid-February.

Gladalan White

Gladalan White is grown in Queensland, the Riverina in New South Whales, in South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Victoria. It is an open pollinated short day variety planted from May to July and harvested from November through to January.

White Spanish

White Spanish is grown in South Australia is an open pollinated long day variety. It is planted in July/ August and harvested in February.

Mild Onions

Mild onions have lower pungency levels whilst retaining their taste. Having a lower pungency levels allows it to be eaten raw, in sandwiches or in salad. These onions have a mild and pleasant flavor that leave a lingering impression of sweetness with none of the burning aftertaste or tears associated with the everyday brown onion.

Types (Physiological classification)

Short Day

These varieties require a short amount of daylight hours (10-12) to bulb and are generally grown in Queensland and New South Wales ie: north of about 35 degrees latitude. Depending on variety and location, planting starts in February through until May and harvest starts in September.

Early Long Day

Long Day refers to the spring sown onions grown at latitudes of 45+ degrees and is not relevant to Australia. In reality Australian onions are short day or intermediate day varieties. The very late varieties in South Australia such as Patrick Brown could be classified as Early Long Day.These varieties require a longer period (15 hours or more) of daylight to bulb and are generally grown, in South Australia and the planting occurs in June and July for a March to April harvest.


These varieties require more daylight than short day varieties but less daylight than long day varieties (around 13 to 14 hours) per day to bulb and this approximates to regions south of 35degrees. These varieties are generally grown in southern states where planting occurs from May to August for a late November to March harvest.

Open Pollinated

An open pollinated variety is when the mother plant is similar to the offspring plant. Seed may be retained from an open pollinated crop to produce a reproduction of the mother plants. Open pollinated varieties are the traditional varieties which have been grown and selected for their desirable traits for many years. However to maintain the variety integrity careful selection of mother bulbs is required in each generation. In producing seed of open pollinated varieties the same care as with hybrid seed production must be taken to ensure that cross pollination from other varieties does not occur.


A hybrid is made by crossing two different inbred or parent lines. Hybrid varieties are usually more uniform, have a high yield/packout and greater disease resistance than open pollinated varieties. Seed from a hybrid crop cannot be reused as hybrid seeds do not produce true reproductions of the mother plants. Seed companies must do the same cross each year to produce consistent hybrid seed. Seed crops are located so as to ensure no cross pollination will occur from neighbouring fields (due to insect transfer of pollen primarily).