GLENNVILLE — We may be known as “The Peach State” and the “Poultry Capital of the World,” but there is really one crop that is exclusively ours and it makes its annual debut this week.
Welcome the Vidalia onion!
There are several states who claim they have sweet onions, but only Georgia has a Vidalia.
The Vidalia onion was the discovery of a farmer named Mose Coleman, who noticed the onions he was growing were not as hot as others. That was true on two counts; it was a much sweeter onion, but was not an instant success.
A few interesting things happened on the way to a successful Vidalia onion. First, farmers started offering them on the roadside to tourists who were coming through the heart of onion country on their way to and from Florida.
Secondly, the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain was based in Vidalia and began distributing the onions to their stores across Georgia and folks were grabbing them up.
There are annual onion festivals in Vidalia and Glennville. At one time, the folks in Glennville tried to lay claim to their own Glennville onion, but in a wise move, everyone rallied behind the better-known Vidalia name.
What makes a Vidalia a Vidalia? Well, it is sulphur. Actually, less sulphur. There are 20 Georgia counties where the lower sulphur level generates a sweet onion that can be called a Vidalia.
The first day of the Vidalia season this year was April 12. That date is set by Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, who has the authority to set such things.
Based on what I saw on my way into town, it’s going to be good year for Vidalia onions.
The Georgia General Assembly declared the Vidalia onion to be the official vegetable of Georgia. It should have been a unanimous vote.
At times, we watch a number of cooking shows at our house. I’ve noticed that some of the popular national chefs like to cook with Vidalias. That’s good exposure for our state.
I saw one say something about using a Vidalia or any other sweet onion. That’s just wrong. I’ve tried some of the wannabes from other places and they don’t stand up to the official vegetable of Georgia.
There are folks who try to pass off other contenders as Vidalias. That is a violation of state and federal law. They send folks who break that law to a small prison on the state line where they also send folks who remove tags from mattresses and pillows that are not to be removed under penalty of law.
The penalty is being sent to a lockup that also housed the official breeding center for gnats, which because of our abnormally warm weather may be mistaken for the official bird of South Georgia.
Go out and grab a bag or two of Vidalias. Feel free to bite right in and think about the good work of Mose Coleman and a little less sulphur.
Without them, you might find yourself in tears.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.