They’re called Sunions, and they’ve been in very limited distribution in the U.S. (at ‘selected’ locations of a couple of dozen major supermarket chains) for a few months. But now, they’re going international with a distributor in the UK, and sweet onion lovers the world over are hankering for a taste!
Well, some people are, anyway…
Sunions are NOT – the growers repeat, NOT – genetically modified. At least in the sense that somebody diddled with their genes in a lab. They were bred the old fashioned way, by crossing many different onion strains with each other until a miracle combination appeared.
The result of years of experimentation – the Sunion – is claimed to be tearless and super-sweet: a salad lover’s dream, and a burger lover’s bonanza. Only two growers are currently producing them, and they are keeping the seeds under lock and key.
Sort of like the Bermuda Onion…
Way back when, Bermuda onions became famous for their mild, sweet flavour and folks everywhere wanted them. Today, we’d say they went viral. But Bermuda – sensing a good thing – placed a ban on Bermuda Onion seed exports. Nobody else was supposed to share in the wealth the onion was expected to bring the island.
But an enterprising U.S. onion grower came up with a 007-worthy plan to get obtain seeds to start his own plantation back in Georgia. The story goes, he visited Bermuda as a tourist and managed to get some seeds – which he smuggled out in the cuffs of his trousers. (Yes, this was back in the days when gents’ suit trousers all had turned-up cuffs.) His direct rip-off of the Bermuda Onion was an instant hit, of course, and he even named it in honour of his home town – Vidalia.
How long before Sunion seeds leak out to other growers?
The official line…
The Sunion people are pretty pleased with themselves – as the foundation statement on their website shows:
“Sunions, America’s first tearless and sweet onion, are a game-changer in the kitchen – no goggles or crazy hacks are needed to keep from crying. These groundbreaking onions didn’t happen by accident and are a product of more than three decades of farming, research and development. Grown in Nevada and Washington, Sunions are consistently mild and crunchy and follow a tightly-controlled brand promise that must certify them both tearless and sweet. Then and only then are Sunions allowed to ship to grocery stores.”
Sister Erin voices the dissenting opinion: “When is an onion not an onion?” she muses. “When it’s a Sunion!” She’s a certified chef de cuisine, and she wants onions to taste, smell, and even tear you up like real onions. Onions, carrots and celery, she hastens to remind us, are the three ingredients of the universal French aromatic veggie flavour base – mirepoix. And onions are also a vital component of the famous Cajun Holy Trinity: carrots, onions and sweet bell peppers.
I hasten to reassure her that, while Sunions will definitely appeal to salad, burger and garnish fans, and maybe even some caramelized onion aficionados, they will never catch on big time with mainstream, trained cooks. The ‘real’ onion is in no way threatened.
Where can you get them?
As I said earlier, Sunions are available at selected locations of more than 2 dozen major U.S. grocery chains. The most familiar ones include Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Aldi and Whole Foods.
One reviewer notes, “The only hindrance is the price.”
Sunions are premiering in the UK this week at about (US)$2 for a mesh bag of 3. Regular onions are selling for about (US)$0.15 each. How much are you willing to pay for tearless, sweet, mild onions?
~ Maggie J.