It's winter of decline for the spring onion

Withering away

Bunches of native onion being hung in a house in Yaluvahalli village in Chikkaballapur taluk. DH photo

With its long, thin green stem, the spring onion was a favourite not so long ago, with the onion adding the tang to the cooking, while the stems were used in making a tasty side dish.

The onions have a long shelf-life and the dried stems would be used as thin ropes to tie the onions together and hung from roof or from a rope in kitchens. Thus hung, the onions would last for up to six months unspoiled.

But of late, the spring onion seems to be on the list of crops that may be on the verge of extinction, such as Doddanellu (kempakki) also known as Red Rice, navane (foxtail millet), sajje (pearl millet), harka (koda millet) same (little millet), koralu, oodalu (barnyard millet) and hucchellu (niger seed) are also vanishing. Only in a few homes the native onion is found hanging.

Farmers in the irrigated belt usually grow native spring onion. They dry the bulb along with the grass in the sun for four days. Later, they tie them in small bunches and hang them to the roof of their farm houses, like garlic. The onions hung like this will remain unspoiled for nearly six months.

“At times, instead of making sambar, we grind onion, garlic and green chillies into a paste. We mix it with rice and eat it. It tastes divine,” farmer Munisothappa told Deccan Herald.

The native onion is also used in the form of medicine. Farmers believe that spring onion is the secret of good health and long life.

“It is believed that eating ball jaggery mixed with onion for three months can help put on weight. To heal cracked heels, the onion is mashed and the paste is applied in a poultice to the heels,” says Kempanna, a farmer. “For all illnesses affecting cattle, the onion is the main medicine,” he adds.

Despite all the gifts that it bestows, the spring onion, sadly, is a vanishing variety.

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