The Sweet Red Onion of Tropea

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 02:00
Red onion of Tropea

Italy boasts many varieties of onion, but perhaps due to its unique sweetness, the most famous and appreciated, even abroad, is cipolla di Tropea – onion from Tropea.

Grown by hand on the clay cliffs that descend from Mount Poro towards the sea between Cape Vaticano, Zambrone, Tropea and Briatico, in the provinces of Cosenza and Vibo Valentia, the Tropea onion was brought to Calabria by the Greeks, who had discovered it thanks to the Assyrians and Babylonians. However, it was the Arabs who perfected its cultivation in Tropea, where they settled for some time, and contributed to its spreading through the region.

The shape of its bulbs, of a deep purple color, vary from round to oval to elongated. The onion’s extraordinary sweetness, its delicate scent, its lightness and enjoyable taste, which derive from the morphological peculiarities of the soil and microclimate where it is grown, make it a much sought after ingredient by gourmets and chefs.

As if its wonderful taste wasn’t enough, the Tropea onion has proven health benefits, known since ancient times. Pliny the Elder, in his “Naturalis Historia”, lists 30 ailments that can be treated with the onion, and medical science has confirmed its healing powers. Recent studies have shown that the Tropea onion, because of its high quality, seem to provide better therapeutic functions than other varieties, especially diuretic, hypoglycemic, and anticancer functions. In addition, it has antiseptic properties, it can alleviate both cold and flu symptoms, it strengthens the cells and tone the arteries, it lowers blood pressure, and it is also used in dermatology.

In addition to be eaten raw in salads, the Tropea onion can be prepared in several different ways: baked, boiled, as a filling for frittata (omelette). In Tropea, it is also used to produce a delicious onion marmalade, to be consumed on crostini, as an appetizer and as an accompaniment to roasts. Another delicacy made in Tropea is a marmalade of onion and roasted peppers, a perfect accompaniment for roasts.

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