Isernia Onion

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Also known as San Pietro onion, the Isernia onion is a local variety that has been selected by Isernia growers for years and it is a fresh onion type. The growing area coincides with that of the municipality of Isernia, but it is grown also in nearby municipalities (such as Macchia di Isernia and Sant’Agapito) where the top height above the sea level is never more than 550 metres, there is plenty of water and the weather is characterized by averagely hot summers and averagely cold winters. The sowing procedure takes place in August while plants are transplanted by the end of October-November. The onions are being harvested from the month of June and picked by hand, with the help of some traditional tools, such as plain hoes and two-pronged ones. The Isernia bulb is traditionally picked between the first and the second ten days of June, especially before the Saints Peter and Paul Fair, taking place in late June. The Isernia onion has a special feature: a white, very flattened bulb weighing between the 100 and 300 grams (but it can weigh much more). It stands out for its sweet taste and not too strong smell, this is why it is generally consumed raw, in salads. It is also used to prepare cipollata, a traditional rural dish: onions are simmered in oil, then persely, pepper and eggs are addedd, and can be eaten with fresh bread. The Isernia onion is associated to the Isernia’s Saints Peter and Paul Fair, which is, in fact, called “onion fair”, since these vegetables have always played a lead role in this occasion. This product is also mentioned in some passages of the “Bagliva of the very faithful town of Isernia”, a document dating back to 1487: according to this document, vendors had to pay a tribute for “every load of onions”, and, not to damage local growers, the traders from outside of town could be forbidden to sell some produce, such as “garlics and onions”. A monograph about Isernia (dating back to 1858) shows another reference to fairs, one of those is dedicated to Saint Peter, which was known at that time as the “the great disposal of onions”. The number of Iserina onion growers has dramatically decreased over the years. As a matter of fact, the very fabric of the town has drastically changed in the last forty years: it used to be a village whose economy was mainly based on agriculture and craftmanship, and now the main business is represented by the service sector. Some twenty, or a few more, farmers are growing this onion in their small vegetable garden nowadays, in very limited amounts. It is then important to promote knowledge not to lose this product that has been a source of wealth for the local community for centuries.

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Production area:Isernia Municiplaity and nearby areas

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Nominated by:Andrea Petraroia