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The Bermuda Onion

bermuda onion 01 wordThe onion is the pride and joy of Bermuda.

It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her conversation, her pulpit,

her literature, it is her most frequent and eloquent figure.

― Mark Twain

 

A Small History

The Bermuda onion is a variety of sweet onion grown on the island of Bermuda. The seeds were originally imported from the Canary Islands and were brought to Bermuda around 1616. They grew so well on the island that they soon became a staple crop. The island’s onions were normally bulb-shaped with a sweet and mild taste. They came in red, purple, yellow and white.

By the mid-1800s, farmers began to realize the value of their crop and started trading Bermuda onions to the U.S. East Coast. As weekly onion shipments increased and sometimes topped more than 30,000 boxes, Americans began to call Bermuda “The Onion Patch” and nicknamed Bermudians “Onions.” 1 Eventually, by around 1920, Sweet onions (their seeds were Bermuda) from Texas largely displaced the Bermuda variety.

 

Bermuda Onions Today

Though the onion trade eventually dwindled due to World War I and the growth of the crop elsewhere, Bermudians are still proud of their onion heritage. Homages to the onion can be seen throughout the island at places like Frog & Onion Pub and the Pickled Onion in Hamilton. 

In the spring, local Bermuda onions make an appearance at produce stands and in a variety of local dishes, such as Bermuda onion soup and Bermuda fish chowder. One special day is set aside during Bermuda's annual Heritage Month in May to celebrate the food staple. An all-day event takes place at the historic Carter House in St. David’s where you can sample some traditional and unusual onion-based cuisine.

 

carter house 01 375

Texas still produces onions which are marketed as Bermuda onions to reach the huge market of fans they have, but these days the state has competition from growers in California, Washington, Hawaii and Georgia. Meanwhile, back in Bermuda the locals aren’t sore. After all, they still have all the ‘real’ Bermuda onions they could ever want.2

 

What Makes Them So Special?

Bermuda onions come in a number of varieties, including Crystal Wax, White Bermuda and Yellow Bermuda.

Unlike red or yellow onions they have flat tops and a mild, sweet taste, as well as a low sulfur content, which makes them extremely palatable when eaten raw in sandwiches or on burgers. However, they are also excellent for cooking, especially in dishes where a gentler, more subtle onion flavor is desired. They produce spring onions around 30 days after the seeds are planted, and a mature onion ready for harvest after around 95 days.2

 

References

1 From https://www.gotobermuda.com/article/the-story-behind-bermudas-onion-obsession>

2 From https://www.bermudianlife.com/2018/10/bermuda-sweet-onions/

 

Image credit: Images may be subject to copyright. Original sources unknown.


Copyright

All material, information and images are © 2015 - 2023 Christoph G. Olesch, unless otherwise noted, and may not be reproduced without permission. Certain content, material, information and images may be subject to copyrights by their respective owners, as indicated, and may not be reproduced without written agreement. All rights reserved.

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