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Italy boasts a great number of onion varieties, the red Tropea onion locally called Cipolla Rossa di Tropea, is a specialty from Calabria. Nestled between the provinces of Cosenza and Vibo Valentia, stands Tropea, a town appreciated not only for its phenomenal beaches, but also for its typical products. Among these, grows one of the most popular bulbs in the world. Naturally crimson, surprisingly sweet, and deliciously crunchy, the red Cipolla Rossa di Tropea onions are an Italian pantry staple.
Historically the Phoenicians and later the Greeks introduced the onion into the Mediterranean basin and into Calabria, contributing to its popularity on trade routes. The fame of the red Tropea onion increased over time: travelers who landed in Calabria between the 18th and 19th centuries along the Tyrrhenian coast from Pizzo Calabro to Tropea, spoke of these onions, singing gastronomic odes.
Two varieties exist: the “half-bell” or “truncated-cone” type that’s very tender, with an exquisitely sweet-and-sour taste harvested in May/June; and then there’s the oval, “elongated” or late harvest one, with a strong taste, enjoyed October to January.
Red Tropea Onions contain high levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, selenium, iodine, zinc and magnesium.The bulb has many beneficial effects; one of these is an anti-sclerotic power that benefits the heart and arteries, and prevents the risk of heart attack. It’s also a natural sedative, that facilitates sleep.
What’s your favorite recipe using onions?
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.