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Monday, May 19, 2014

Ah, the Sweet Onion!

When I was growing up, I didn't realize that California was a deeply agricultural state. Or, more importantly, that being so was a bit unusual.  Had I known then that the Golden State produces about a third of what all of America eats, from dairy and fruit to veggies and meat, I might have appreciated it a little more.

But as it was, I just reveled in my family's prolific gardens, my grandma's raspberries and walnuts, my uncle's endless supply of abalone and salmon, and my cousin's steady flow of venison and antelope and freshwater fish.  Between our own home grown bounty and copious road side stands selling everything from luscious melons to corn so sweet and fresh it didn't even need to be cooked, we pretty much lived like kings from May through the end of October.

But I took it all for granted. Until I moved away, that is.

First, to Washington, DC, then to England, where the weather and soil and growing season are vastly different than the rich, sun-kissed loam of California.  I missed a number of garden delicacies in my time abroad. . .vine ripened tomatoes, ice cold watermelon, wild huckleberries.  And I missed the luxury of wandering through a lush, vibrant garden picking dinner fresh from the vines as I went.

One thing I particularly missed, though, was the one summer delicacy we couldn't grow at home:  The sweet onion.

I don't mean red onions or sweetish yellow, white, or green onions, mind you.  I mean onions so sweet that you could eat them like an apple. . .ones that came from exotic, far of lands such as Hawaii and Texas.  (yes, Texas. . .be kind to me. . .I was a kid!)

Ooooooh how I loved the Maui Sweet and the Vidalia and the Walla Walla!  A thick, cold slab between two slices of fresh sourdough bread, lightly spread with some home made herbed mayo?  One of summer's most captivating treats.

They were here for only a short season then. . .way too soon they were gone.  I used to weep a little when we discovered the crop had run its course and I wouldn't taste that mana again for eleven more long months.

After moving back from the UK two years ago, however,I discovered they're now available almost year round.  They still taste delicious. . .though, somehow, not quite as sweet as I remember.

Perhaps they're different varieties now that just aren't quite as sweet as the old ones. . .or maybe, just maybe, it was the wait that made them so.

(photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)

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