Most people wouldn’t think of growing giant vegetables as a hobby, but then Keith Foster isn’t most people. Keith runs his own seed company Exhibition Seeds and breeds different varieties of vegetables for the Show world. His onion variety ‘Ailsae' holds many world records. The current world record stands at 18 lbs. 11.5 ounces for one onion!
Keith has been a Gardener for most of his career. Prior to starting his seed company, he was head Gardener to Lord and Lady Normanby (The Guinness Family) for 17 years. Before that he was Head Gardener to Lord Zetland in the UK.
When asked about how he uses the TIM10 CO2Meter, Keith said, “I sow and raise my onion plants in my grow room/tunnel, and I find your CO2 Monitor is perfect for the temperature, humidity and great for the CO2.”
“I use a gas heater to heat the growing area, which raises my CO2 quite high, but the onions thrive on levels around 1,500 to 2,500ppm so they are OK,” he said. “I need to know the CO2 levels, and your monitor is very accurate at telling me what the levels are at any time.”
“To grow onions to a world class size and weight, you need good reliable equipment,” he continued. “Your TIM10 Desktop monitor is a great aid in my quest for giant onions! Most of my onions weigh around 14 lbs. each!”
Why raise giant onions? According to Keith, “the giant onions are sweeter than normal kitchen onions, they cook quicker too, and they don’t make your eyes run as much as do the small onions. The taste is great. Keep in mind, the strain we have grown outdoors as normal onions would perhaps reach about 3 lbs. in weight. It is the culture we give them that turns them into giants.”
Any other tips for growing giant onions?
“We sow around mid-October under 24/7 lights,” he said. “We also give them additional CO2 and warmth.”
When asked about raising onions for competition, Keith said, “It’s all become very scientific, but you still need the right strain. Many growers now use hydroponics.” However, Keith grows his onions in 30 liter containers and hand waters them instead.
What’s the best thing about giant onions? According to Keith, “The best onions are put back for seed, but the rest are eaten. Sometimes we cook 30 inch onion rings! The world record onion had a circumference of 34 inches.”
I don’t even own a 30 inch pan, but I like his style.
Interested in growing giant onions? You can start on Keith's website here.