Several quality labels and controlled or protected designations of origin [AOC and AOP] aim to encourage consumers to discover varieties such as the Cebolla Fuentes de Ebro (Spain), the Cipollotto Nocerino and the Cipolla Rossa di Tropea Calabria (Italy), the Oignon doux des Cévennes and the Oignon rosé de Roscoff (France).
Roscoff, a town situated in northern Brittany, proudly extols the unique, mild and sweet flavour of the local variety, which has been popular with the British since the 19th century. “The Roscoff men who set off each year at the end of summer to sell their onions in Great Britain were given the nickname ‘Johnnies’. Firstly on foot, then on bikes, Johnnies were loaded down with plaited strings of onions which they sold door to door along the streets of England, Wales and Scotland.”4 The Breton port has been appreciated for its onions since the 17th century. Since they are easy to keep and boast a high vitamin C content, they were a staple for sailors who would go several weeks, or months even, without touching land.
... and good for our health!
Sailors are not the only ones to appreciate these nutritious bulbs. As Marise Charron explains, “An onion comprises around 36 kilocalories, which is not many, but it contains 1.2 grams of fibre. It also contains vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese, nutrients the body needs to function properly.”
However, some people, especially those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, may have an intolerance to onions. The Canadian dietician points out that, “They may suffer from bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort,” before adding, reassuringly, “But most people don’t have any problems, quite the opposite in fact.”
Onions are high in antioxidants so they form a good line of defence against infection, inflammation and bad cholesterol. In her book Superaliments Bonheur5 on happiness superfood, Marise Charron puts forward another, lesser-known effect on health: “Onions contain quercetin, which helps reduce anxiety.” Although clinical studies have yet to prove such an effect on humans, while natural functional food is currently so popular, onions do not seem to be in any danger of being knocked off their pedestal.