THE ONION

NUTRITIONAL ASPECTS

Onions are composed of 90% water, 1% protein, very few fats and some important mineral elements such as potassium, calcium and phosphorus. The glucidic portion is formed above all by simple sugars and by a small amount of fiber consisting mainly of fructans (a fructose polymer) which is important from a nutritional point of view since being an indigestible polysaccharide it is substrate for the intestinal bacterial flora. This causes the balance of the intestinal bacterial flora to be shifted in favour of the bifid flora (to the detriment of the putrefective) with documented health benefits.

FEATURES

Why is the onion red?

The onion is rich in anthocyanins (sulphurated polyphenolic compounds belonging to the flavonoid family).

If grown in different areas does it loose its excellent physical, chemical and organoleptic qualities?

The qualitative peculiarities of this variety depend on its genetic make-up and its interaction with the environment. By environment we mean: the peculiarities of the land, the proximity to the sea, the duration of the day, the temperature, the humidity. Four thousand years of this interaction have determined these particular characteristics. The warm and gentle sea breeze that constantly caresses our fields! A genetic heritage brought on our lands by the people of the Phoenicians almost 4000 years ago! These are the factors most responsible for the extraordinary qualities of this product.

PROCESSING STEPS

The cultivation technique begins with the preparation of the soil that is plowed, milled and placed in appropriately baulated prose; the plant is carried out in three different ways: with the planting of the bulbs, with the direct sowing and with the transplanting of bare root seedlings.

Using the bulbs we adopt distances of 15 cm on the row and 40 cm between rows and the planting is done at the end of August to have production ready in October. The direct sowing is carried out in loose and well levelled soils at the end of August - beginning of September to be precise or broadcast seed drills followed by a thinning in order to achieve a density of 60 plants / m2 obtained by adopting distances of 10 x 15 cm, with this method of production the production is hesitated during the Christmas period. The transplant involves the preparation of the seedlings in outdoor seedbeds set up by the same farmers in the period August-September, with the transplantation in the period end September-early October in order to have production from December-January and until March and in any case late compared to direct sowing.

The seedlings suitable for transplanting must have reached a height of at least 15 cm and have 4-5 true leaves; almost always the partial cut of the roots is carried out in order to facilitate the manual or mechanical arrangement of the seedlings in the ground. For the success of the cultivation it is necessary to pay particular attention to irrigation especially in the early stages of the crop cycle and in particular when direct sowing is used and it works in loose soil characterised by a reduced water retention capacity. Therefore, it intervenes almost daily unless in an emergency with the direct sowing in sandy soils and subsequently reducing the interventions that must be, however, in numbers of 2 - 3 per week. Irrigation shifts can be lengthened when transplanting is used and especially when bulbs are planted; in any case, the watered areas become less frequent as the crop cycle progresses, that is to say in the autumn and winter period due to the reduced evapotranspiration of the environment and when the crop takes advantage of the meteoric water supply. Fertilisation is carried out both at the plant, with the addition of organic substance (manure) or ternary mineral fertilisers, and in coverage by intervening two or three times with nitrogen fertilisers, ammonium nitrate and / or ammonium sulphate.

 For the control of weeds, towards which the lilyceae is particularly sensitive and not very competitive for almost the whole crop cycle (Tei and Montemurro, 1998) due to the scarce aptitude to cover the soil, a chemical weeding of the plant is occasionally carried out with an active substance with antigermin action (trifluralin) followed by a post-emergency intervention whose pa it is chosen among those registered for the species, according to the composition of the infesting species; generally, weed interventions of weeding and weeding are preferred for the control of weeds.

The harvest is done by hand, for the onions when the bulbs reach a considerable size and the 'necks' get a deep red colour. Onions are grubbed up and left in the field to dehydrate for at least 8 days. For fresh onion, on the other hand, contrary to the Serbian onion, the grubbing takes place when the product is still with intense green tails and the necks start to turn red.

THE TERRITORY

The production area of the Red Onion of Tropea Calabria PGI includes the suitable land forming part of the administrative territory of the following Calabrian municipalities: part of the municipalities of Fiume freddo, Longobardi, Serra d'Aiello, Belmonte, Amantea, in the province of Cosenza; part of the municipalities of Nocera Terinese, Falerna, Gizzeria, Lamezia Terme, Curinga, in the province of Catanzaro; part of the municipalities of Pizzo, Vibo Valentia, Briatico Parghelia, Zambrone, Zaccanopoli, Zungri, Drapia, Tropea, Ricadi, Spilinga, Joppolo, Nicotera, in the province of Vibo Valentia.    

The production area that stretches along the middle / upper Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria is composed of fertile soils, sandy, deep soils with frank texture to frank / clay, alluvial type with a fair amount of organic substance and good structure, rich in waterways and characterised by a Mediterranean microclimate, cold and humid in winter and hot in summer and where the sun and sea set the winters free without creating too many changes in temperature.  It can be consumed directly as it is cultured. The mild climate, without changes in temperature during the winter, seems to be the cause of the sweet taste that characterises it.  

Although it does not represent a leading production for Calabrian agriculture, it is an important resource not only economic but also social and cultural because of the close link it has with the territory.  For this reason there are no problems about its placement on the market, because its unique organoleptic characteristics make it attractive and sought all over the world, both on the domestic and foreign markets.

HIS OWN STORY

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In Calabria, it seems that the onion was introduced by the Phoenicians in the area of Vibonese and, thanks to important trade routes of the time such as the port of Parghelia, spreading in that stretch of coast between the seas "Lametino" and "Viboneto" that goes from Amantea to Capo Vaticano (Strabo lib.6 and Aristotile lib.7 De Repubblica).  This product will spread with greater intensity in the Bourbon period, when it will be introduced and requested by the markets of northern Europe, becoming well appreciated. Fiore in Studies on Calabria also talks about the shape of the bulb and the bislong red of Calabria. The first and organised statistical surveys on the cultivation of onion in Calabria are reported in the Agricultural Encyclopaedia Reda (1936 - 39). With the intensification of trade in the mid-1950s, it was also known and appreciated in overseas markets.  Sweet, crunchy and red, these are the characteristics that make the "Red Onion of Tropea Calabria" so desirable and desirable, defined for its qualities "Red Gold of Calabria".

CURIOSITY & FACTS

Remedies suggested by popular tradition:

- For those who can not stand the smell of onion it is advisable to cut the bulbs into very small slices, dress them with oil and lemon and let them macerate for a few hours.

- To remove the smell of onion from the hands, it is necessary to rub with vinegar, salt or lemon juice and then wash the hands with warm water and soap.

- In case of cold, cough or sore throat, it is advisable to cut an onion into two and place the two pieces on the bedside table, as close to the nose, in order to suck up the vapours during sleep.

- If you are struck by a wasp it is useful to pass on the affected area a fresh onion, cut in half: you will avoid the formation of swelling and the inevitable itching. After a few minutes, rinse with warm water. 

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Tips to mitigate the annoying tearing when slicing onions:

- While cutting the bulbs, it is often necessary to wet the knife blade under the water, or to cut the onions in a longitudinal direction and then in horizontal slices.

- Store the bulbs in the fridge just before use: in fact, the cold brakes the evaporation of irritants. It is therefore recommended to peel them under running water or to soak them, before cutting them in hot water.

- Before drinking it is useful to drink a glass of water; or put the onions for 10 minutes in the freezer or for an hour in the refrigerator.

- Keep a teaspoon of silver in the mouth while you cut the bulbs.

Advice to reduce "heavy" breath after ingestion of the onion

When the bulbs are eaten raw, even after a few hours of chewing, an unpleasant odor from the mouth comes from small onion particles left in the oral cavity.

To reduce this inconvenience, it is recommended to chew: 

- Leaves of parsley, mint or coffee beans, or drink a glass of milk.

- Cardamom seeds (Elettaria cardamomum With. Et Maton); they have a particular and intense taste and they also help the digestion and eliminate the "air in the belly".

RECIPES

The red onions of Tropea Calabria IGP, what a beautiful invention, you just have to thank the nature and the good God for this wonder of vegetable, so sweet and delicious and healthy that you can not do without it if it lacks this which has now become a protagonist on the table, we must stop with the culinary art. Once, remembered our grandmothers, it was essential as a staple for any sauté and boiled veal and chicken, and that nowadays more and more space has been made on our tables with an infinite number of recipes for which it lends itself. Now it is in so many recipes that has become more indispensable than parsley, in our daily from soups to omelettes, jams, not to mention the salads fresh delicacies and sweets of summer. This thanks not only to the unmistakable sweet taste that differentiates it from all the other qualities, but also for the organoleptic properties of Red Tropea Calabria IGP, which is diuretic and laxative and highly digestible and rich in vitamins. We have never wondered why our ancestors lived so long and nor did the doctors, but it is clear they fed these products so called poor of the earth but so rich in antioxidant and healthy properties as well as excellent anti-inflammatories.