The Vatolla onion is a native variety to Cilento, it has a very sweet taste, it is not very pungent, it is delicate, and it has an aroma that is not very intense. It has the shape of a spinning top, or a small lemon and its weight varies between 330 to 400 grams, but it often reaches even 800 to 900 grams. The outer skin is a beautiful pinkish white and the inner layers of the bulb are white, tightly packed, with longitudinal lines that are shades of faded pink.
It is grown in Vatolla, a district of the municipality of Perdifumo, where the fertile and clay rich soils are particularly suited and have excellent exposure to the sun. The small town is located on the slopes of Monte Stella, in the Cilento National Park, and overlooks the coast between Agropoli and Castellabate, with an unforgettable view of the islands of Capri and Ischia. This particular geographic location generates a microclimate that the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico, during his stay in Palazzo De Vargas as a tutor for the noble Rocca, defined as “perfect air.” There are no written sources, but according to the local tradition the seeds of the Vatolla onion arrived from the East before the year 1000, brought by Basilian monks fleeing iconoclastic persecutions. For centuries it has been cultivated only in Vatolla, where it has found an ideal habitat. The farmers of the area, for generations, have been handed down the seeds, preserving and keeping intact its genetic heritage. Over time, popular rituals related to the onion have also established, such as the feast of the sowing and transplanting of the seedlings into the field (in January), of the braiding (in June) and of the Vatolla onion (in July and August). In July, on the occasion of the Feast of the Madonna del Carmelo in Mercato Cilento (another district of the municipality of Perdifumo), the braided onions are sold, as a token of thanks for the harvest.
They are sown from August to September and between November and December the seedlings are transplanted into the vegetable gardens. No chemicals are used as means to control the weeds and weeds are removed either mechanically or manually. Also, synthetic chemical products are not used as fertilisers or to protect the plant from pests. Onion cultivation involves biennial rotations (with tomatoes, beans, broad beans) and localised irrigation during the driest periods, water is used from the numerous springs present or in the “peschere”: cisterns that collect rainwater. They are harvested manually: starting from the end of June and finishing in the first ten days of August. The onions remain in the field for a while to dry, then they are braided at dawn, when the leaves are damp, and hung in well ventilated places, away from rain and humidity.
The Vatolla onion is very digestible and is perfect in salads, onion omelettes and Cilento cacioricotta, and is the fundamental ingredient of the traditional “susciello di cipolla ": an onion soup topped with extra virgin olive oil and pecorino cheese. It does not have a very long shelf life; a small amount is processed further to be transformed into jams so that it can be consumed even when it is not in season.
It is harvested from June to August
The objective of the Presidium is to increase awareness and knowledge of this local variety and to enhance its cultivation in small family gardens (done in compliance with the principles of integrated or organic production), strengthening the local community and its bond with the territory.
Vatolla, Perdifumo municipality, in the province of Salerno
Cilento Vallo di Diano and Alburni National Park and the Perdifumo Muicipality
Associazione Cipolla di Vatolla
Vatolla di Perdifumo (Sa)
Tel. 346 6178763
Lucia Bertolini, Raffaella Contente, Rachele Contente, Iolanda Di Muoio, Enza Gargione, Alfredo Malandrino, Anna Maria Malandrino, Carmela Malandrino, Emilio Malandrino, Franca Malandrino, Sistina Malandrino, Anna Malinconico, Angela Marzucca, Guido Marzucca, Chiara Monzo, Celestina Mutalipassi, Teresa Mutalipassi, Raffaella Paolillo, Fiorello Pecora, Maurizio Pecora, Stefania Tulino.