How sweet it is! South Carolina’s newest crop, sweet onions, was recently introduced in the fields at Clayton Rawl Farms in Lexington County.

Growers, retailers, and other dignitaries were on hand to tour a field of sweet onions and sample the sweet treat.

“The sweet onion is a sweet deal for South Carolina,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “Consumers have the opportunity to try a new local product. At the same time, they’re keeping those dollars local which is also a sweet deal for South Carolina.”

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture has been encouraging consumers to "Buy South Carolina."

The new sweet onion crop is another way that growers are diversifying their product mix to provide consumers with a local choice.

Sweet onions are currently grown in Lexington, Barnwell, Bamberg, Calhoun, and Orangeburg counties.

This year there will be more than 60 acres planted in South Carolina with plans to increase acreage as consumer demand increases.

Chris Rawl, whose family has farmed in Lexington County since the 1700s, said they recognized there was good market for sweet onions and were looking for a new niche. “Our acres are just a drop in the bucket for what South Carolina can consume,” Rawl said of the sweet onions. “I can foresee a much bigger market here locally.”

Rawl added there is a market for sweet onions once consumers realize they can be grown right here in South Carolina. He said he believes people will ask for the sweet onion.

Since sweet onions are a winter crop they are planted in fall and harvested in the spring. Planting occurs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and are harvested around mid-April to June.

Sweet onions have a light golden-brown color and when cut open reveal a creamy white interior. They are ideal as an ingredient in cooking and baking or as a flavor garnish on hamburgers and other dishes. Green sweet onions with tops are now available in limited quantities and dried onions will reach the marketplace shortly.

Consumers who are interested in purchasing locally grown sweet onions can look for the Certified SC Grown logo wherever they shop for fresh produce. For more information on buying locally grown visit the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Web sites at http://www.agriculture.sc.gov or http://www.certifiedscgrown.com.