Supersized onions are produced at Suffolk farm

GREAT, big onions have taken aback workers at a Suffolk farm.

The unusually big onions are two to three times the standard size found in supermarkets and have never before been seen at the farm which has been growing onions for 20 years.

Workers at Elveden Farms, which is part of Elveden Estate near Thetford, have been surprised by the bumper crop, which boasts onions up to 15cm in diameter, caused by unusual weather conditions.

Normally the onions reach up to 9cm in diameter which is the maximum size accepted by the supermarkets.

Andrew Fancis, senior farms manager, said they had been producing onions there for more than 20 years, but this was the first time they had harvested onions of this size.

It happens to come ahead of The Big Onion food and music festival at the estate this Saturday, originally named with no reference to bulb sizes, but to the importance of the vegetable.

Elveden grows about 6% of the UK total onion supply, harvesting about 23,000 to 24,000 tonnes a year.

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Mr Francis, who has worked there for 17 years, said the supersized onions were certainly an East Anglian phenomenon.

He said: “Certainly East Anglia have had the weather conditions that have caused it. It’s in our early crop we have grown from set [small bulbs].”

He added: “We were expecting an earlier crop, but not the size of individual bulbs. That’s unusual.”

A warmer, drier, sunnier than average spring, followed by ample June rainfall is said to be behind the phenomenon.

Lisa Crissall, office manager for Elveden produce, is tasked with getting the supersized onions in the shops.

She said there was a chance one of the supermarkets they supply to may take on those which are bigger than 9cm in diameter as an extra large line.

She said the onion sizes the supermarkets take are 5 to 7cm for pre-packed, 6 to 8cm for loose and 8 to 9cm for Spanish loose and three in a net.

The supermarkets Elveden supplies to includes Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

The Big Onion festival, with more than 50 food and drink producers, cooking demonstrations, music and onions, runs from 10am to 10pm on Saturday.

Mr Francis said: “Our Big Onion festival has truly lived up to its name! We originally named it the Big Onion in celebration of the onion, but now it seems its first year will be memorable on the farm as well as at the festival!”

Tickets cost �5 per adult, �3 per child and �14 for a family ticket in advance and can be purchased from www.elveden.com, by calling 01842 898068 or by visiting Elveden Shopping Courtyard.