Onion trouble

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"Quite a few of my onions have gone rotten in storage" writes Kenneth Fitchett of Dorchester, Dorset. "I left them in the sun for a good fortnight. They then had several weeks in good sunshine on the shelf below the garage window. When I cut off the stalks before putting them there, there was a juicy liquid in some. These must be the ones whose stems have brown stains on them."

Join the club, Mr Fitchett. My onions have been melting too. It seems the weather is to blame. The wet summer and mild winter made less than ideal conditions for ripening and storing onions.

Disease enters through the neck of an onion if the bulb is not properly dried off. Commercial growers dry their crop for about three days in stores kept at 30C, followed by at least a month at 25C, with air constantly circulating over the onions. Then they are switched into cold stores, cooled down to 1C.

These conditions are difficult to reproduce. The stone store where I keep fruit and vegetables is 53F at the moment, with no means of keeping it cooler. Consumption of onion soup is at an all time high.