A rare gem and a worthy candidate to act as a spokesperson for one of the delicacies of Calabria, Italy and the world, even though today it is still unknown to most of the inhabitants of the city of Pollino. We’re talking about the White Onion of Castrovillari, belonging to the lily and cultivated regularly up until the 1970s, which has been the focus of a conference entitled “the protection of local products” held Thursday, September 22nd at the Castrovillari Aragonese Castle during the event “Civitanova,” in the presence of regional representatives of CIA, Coldiretti and Confagricoltura. It is a peculiarity of the border area of Calabria and Basilicata extending over a few hectares of land, particularly those near the area known as ”Giardini,” best known for its mineral water springs with canals which irrigate fields (the same water sources which fascinated the writer Norman Douglas during his trip to Calabria and Basilicata).
There are several anecdotes about the white onion that have been brought to light by Dr. Luigi Gallo of ARSAC: studies already conducted by the authorities on eco-types allow for the reconstruction of its history going back to what was once called the “The Fair of the White Onion of Castrovillari,” which took place every year in Terranova, Sibari on June 13th, the day of St. Anthony. Another curiosity is the particular type of barter through which castrovillaresi growers offered the onions to the Lucan shepherds in exchange for cheese. Insemination of the seeds falls on July 16th, coinciding with the celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the seeds were harvested in August, while the rest of the year was dedicated to the cultivation. Over time, however, the number of producers has decreased dramatically, producing a gap of about two generations, a void not only time, but mainly knowledge.
The ARSAC has an intention to carry out an investigation on the organoleptic properties of the food, from which emerged a low concentration of propanethiol S-oxide, the indicator of the degree of “pungency” (in layman’s terms, the substance responsible for the typical teary eyes when slicing an onion), which makes it a particularly sweet species, as well as reaping benefits from this type of cultivation that does not require special sophistication from a plant-protection point of view, or need treatment with chemical substances and fertilizers, hence, sustainable from both an economic and environmental point of view.
A 100% natural and biologic product in which it would be appropriate to invest in: the economic data in hand, has been shown by ARSAC that the annual gross income from the production of white onion amounts to about 12,000 Euros, with a reduced business risk and the ability to tap into the RDP funds: an occasion intended for young entrepreneurs, as the horticultural techniques are easy to learn – even for newbies in the industry – and the relatively long growing time allowing you to be able to devote equal time to other activities, thus creating an effective halt to the phenomenon of youth unemployment and emigration.
Pending the receipt of the legal protections and mark of excellence which belong to our onion, before all others, the deco (a local designation) already requested by the mayor of Castrovillari, Domenico Lo Polito to the authorities concerned. The hope is that this Calabrian pearl will cross over from local orchards to fully establish itself in the national and international market, such as the red onion of Tropea, now famous around the world, and the pride of made-in-Italy quality. This aspiration can only be realized through a return to the love for nature because, as we know already from the physiocrats, “everything comes from the earth,” always the prodigal mother of treasures and riches.