The red Toupie onion, known in the local dialect as zoyon local, is mainly cultivated on the southern part of the island, in the Grand-Sable and Petit-Sable regions, in Bambous-Virieux and Quatre-Soeurs. The product is a small, round onion, with a peel that goes from orange to red. The flavor is quite strong and particular, due to the fact that it contains less water than traditional onions. Harvest takes place between September and December and the onions can be conserved for up to ten months; they are sold for the most part to local people.
This onion’s low productivity, due in part to the erosion of the soil that is constantly increasing, combined with the fact that many people don’t know about it or prefer more common, imported varieties of onions that are bigger and cost less, have led this product to the brink of extinction.
The Movement for Alimentary Self-Sufficiency (MAA) has launched a campaign to help the producers who cultivate this variety that has been on the island for more than a century. Thanks to this project, the farmers can produce and conserve their own seeds in order to safeguard the variety, they do not use chemical products, and they make their own compost using the algae that they gather along the coast.
In the local cuisine, the red Toupie onion is used to prepare traditional dishes, such as biryani, a dish that is emblematic of the Muslim community, but that is also typical of the island in general.