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Lincoln interviews an onion

A conversation with an Ailsa Craig

Lincoln: Thank you so much for joining us. What are you up to these days?

Ailsa Craig: Well, you know, it's a quiet time of year for me. All the hustle and bustle of the growing season is behind us, my top is nicely dried down, and, to tell you the truth, I don't get out of the walk-in much. I just find, as I mature, that I like the quiet darkness of a nice, cold room. The hum of the cooler, the nearness of my family. But it is nice to get out now and again, and I like the opportunity to do things like have this conversation.


Lincoln: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Your family history?


Ailsa Craig: Absolutely. Yeah, I think everyone knows that we Ailsa Craigs are of Scottish descent.


Lincoln: Of course.


Ailsa Craig: But a lot of folks assume we're from Ailsa Craig itself, which is ridiculous -- it's a tiny granite outcropping that would've been totally unsuitable for my ancestors. In fact, the first family records we have date back to the 1880s, at Culzean Castle, in Ayshire, which looks out over the island of Ailsa Craig. So the confusion is understandable, but frustrating.


Lincoln: I can only imagine. Can you tell me a bit about yourself and other Ailsas? This is for print, and there won't be any images, so if you could paint a picture, I'm sure folks would appreciate it.


Ailsa Craig: Yeah, definitely. So, we're a really mild onion, not at all sharp and acrid like...some other onions. I would say that's our defining characteristic. It makes us very versatile. We're equally at home in a soup, or sauteed, we're great in a stir fry; probably the best just raw on a salad, or in a fresh salsa. I've been told we're mild enough to be "Eaten like an apple," which is quite a compliment. I don't mean to brag. I'm just saying it because it's something people say about us. You know. In terms of appearance, obviously a beautiful, straw-colored wrapper. Very white and juicy interior. Our necks are very distinctive -- elongated, perfectly shaped, not just plain and round know, maybe some other onions are.


Lincoln: And that neck proved to be a bit of a liability this year, didn't it?


Ailsa Craig: I wouldn't say liability, no. It's true that a number of us unfortunately suffered from a bit of neck rot. But there was a thrips pandemic this year, and I feel that the growers at Sawyer Farm are more to blame for that than we are.


Lincoln: Point taken. Yeah, because of the neck rot you're actually being sold at a discount this year.


Ailsa Craig: DIscount or no, we're the first onion variety to sell out, year after year, and you know it. Let's just say the discount is something we Craigs are not happy about. Let's move on.


Lincoln: Ailsas are also known for their tremendous size, is that right? Softball-sized.


Ailsa Craig: Ha! I was told this interview would have softball questions. More like an interrogation. Look. It's true that we are capable of achieving large sizes. In 2019, for example, I was told that the average Sawyer Farm Ailsa was over one pound. Now 2020 was a different year, OK? Drought, thrips; there were some real hurdles, and frankly I'm proud of what we achieved despite this year's adversity. I'll turn this question around to you, I'll say it again, we could've had more help from the growers here.


Lincoln: That's quite an accusation. What are you referring to exactly?


Ailsa Craig: I'm talking about row covers and more frequent irrigation if you want to get specific. And me personally, I was growing pretty close to some Galansogas. They're a weed, which is why I bring it to your attention. That's a problem for you to handle, OK? Not me. Galansoga is aggressive, greedy, loud. No manners. Unappealing in every way. That's very distracting when you're trying to bulb.  


Lincoln: Right. That's fair. I'm sorry. Everything you just said is true. I'm going to give it some serious thought. One last question for you: Leeks are coming in this week, a close cousin of yours. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about them?


Ailsa Craig: My parents always told me, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." So make what you want of that.


Lincoln: Wow. Because I love leeks. They have a really different flavor from onions. In the right application.... Don't get me wrong -- onions are the staple -- but leeks have a lot to offer, I think.


Ailsa Craig: They do have a "different" flavor. I'll agree with that. They've also got a lot up top and not much down below, if you know what I mean. I was always taught that your top is important -- and we do have lovely, strong tops -- but that it's what's in your bulb that really matters. Now I've said too much. Sorry. Leeks are great.


Lincoln: No problem. I understand. Just between us, I'd take an Ailsa over a leek in a desert island situation for sure.


Ailsa Craig: Thank you.


Lincoln: Yeah, thank you. This has been an enlightening talk. Look, I take full responsibility for the affect my management, or lack thereof, might have had this year. There's always next year!


Ailsa Craig: Not for me....


Lincoln: Oh! Right. So sorry!


Ailsa Craig: Yeah, if you could just bring me back to the walk-in now, that would be great. 


Lincoln: Let's not forget to let folks know where they can put in their order for everyone's favorite onion...Ailsa Craig! 


Ailsa Craig: Are you trying to get me to plug the farm store right now? What do you want me to say, "Remember to put in your order at Is that what you want? OK. Here you go: please order me, my relatives, and other delicious vegetables at How's that?