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Iitoi onions…

November 30, 2010

There are so many things around the farm with wonderfully lyrical names like Lolla Rosa, Kohlrabi, and Kabocha Squash.  As we move through the seasons, I always enjoy hearing the names for new seeds Bob has found.  Tomatoes alone have a whole host of fun varieties, like Early Girls, Red Lightning, Green Zebras and Punta Bandas.  Fingerling potatoes aren’t just fingerlings, they can be called Red Thumb, Russian Banana, Purple Peru or Ruby Crescents.  Turnips are the same with their Baby Hakurei and Scarlet Queen varieties.  Aidan’s favorite name is the Yellow Eye Steuben beans, which he thought were “Stupid Beans” when he was little and would laugh manically every time he said it.

Sometimes these names come with stories that are even more interesting, which I found out when I asked Bob about Iitoi Onions.

Iitoi Onions look like a green onion, although the bulbs are slight pinkish tinge and a milder flavor.  The onions were first brought over by the Spaniards when the Franciscan fathers began to build missions in northern Mexico.  The onion bulbs were given to Papago Indians (now the Tohono O-Odham) living in the Sonoran desert, since Iitoi are more tolerant to drought than other onions.  They are not planted from seed, but rather from bulbs.  Within days of going into the ground, they will start to sprout and almost as fast as you can pick them they will spread.  For every ten we pick, we leave one or two in the ground, and they quickly multiply again.  Fragments of a bulb can lay dormant in the ground for months during the summer and then suddenly sprout again in the fall without having to replant.  We can see in the fields where the Iitois were planted in the past.   Since they propagate from one bulb, the Iitoi onions you find now are direct descendants from those originally brought over on the Spanish galleons.

Pretty cool for a little onion.

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