The Lamezia Terme red onion has an ovoid shape, an intense red color, and is sweet and crunchy. Its history stretches back many centuries: The first records of widespread cultivation of the Lamezia Terme red onion date from the first half of the 1800s, when Lamezia Terme was still known as Nicastro. An edict of Ferdinando II, ruler of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, turned the local onion fair from a 2-day event to a 5-day event. The fair was held on the 29th of June, during the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The local farmers used these days to market the onion, along with pink garlic, another traditional local variety cultivated by the same producers. The simultaneous occurrence of the onion festival with the Christian feast day is no coincidence: The popular traditions, not only of Lamezia Terme but of Calabria as a whole, link the red onions with the festival of Saints Peter and Paul thanks to a legend about the mother of Saint Peter. It is said that she was very mean and, in her life, only made one offer of generosity: She gifted an onion to a starving old person. When she died, in order not go to hell, she pleaded with her son and reminded him of that one act of kindness. Saint Peter asked Jesus to save her and he agreed, permitting the mother to cling to an onion braid. While the woman tried to ascend from the underworld, other souls also clung to this braid. She started kicking to drive away the poor damned souls, but the braid did not hold, and Saint Peter’s mother fell into the flames of hell.
The best onions come from the neighborhood of Francica and the surrounding area, which is characterized by the presence of light, well-drained gravelly soil. These conditions prevent the onion plants from becoming moldy.