Utah State Vegetable - Spanish Sweet Onion
The Spanish sweet onion was named the state vegetable in the 2002 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, S.B. 136. Senator Bill Wright, R-Elberta, a dairy farmer, sponsored the measure and students from Lone Peak Elementary School were the driving force behind this bill (Utah Code). The sugar beet is the Utah State Historic Vegetable.
There was stiff competition at the Capitol from the Realms of Inquiry School students, supported by Rep. Jackie Biskupski, who backed the sugar beet as Utah's vegetable. A compromise was reached; plans to designate one or the other was merged into a single bill and the sugar beet was declared the historical state vegetable and the onion the contemporary state vegetable.
Spanish sweet onions are similar to yellow onions, only larger and a bit sweeter. It is one of the most popular onion for slicing and eating raw because of its mild sweet taste. They can be baked, sautéed, or fried and they store well. Spanish Sweet onions are available from August through January.
Onion farms can be found in Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties, taking up about 2,500 acres. Onions are a $9 million business in Utah and these counties grow about 100 million pounds of onions each year. Utah State University's Agriculture Experiment Station in Logan has an "onion specialist" who studies the vegetable and believes it may help prevent cancer, heart attacks and strokes (it naturally thins the blood) as well as being tasty and only 65 calories per cup!
The onion (in general, not necessarily the Spanish Sweet onion) is believed to have originated in Asia, though it is likely that onions may have been growing wild on every continent. Dating back to 3500 BC, onions were one of the few foods that did not spoil during the winter months. Our ancestors must have recognized the vegetable's durability and began growing onions for food. Learn more about the history of the onion.
Why do we cry when we cut into an onion?
It's simply a reaction of enzymes in the onion when they become exposed to the air. Heating the onion increases the enzyme activity. Chilling onions before chopping or slicing them helps reduce the tendency to tear-up because it slows down the reaction of the enzymes.
- Onion 'Sweet Spanish Yellow Utah Jumbo' - Allium cepa var. cepa (Folia: Social Garden Tracker & Organiser)
- Onion Publications (Utah Government Publications Online Digital Library)
- Roasted Utah Onion and Rosemary Focaccia (From Chef Scott Blackerby at Bambara Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City)
Learn more about Onions
- Allium cepa L.: Garden Onion (The PLANTS Database, Natural Resources Conservation Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- Allium cepa L. (Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products)
- Onion 'Yellow Sweet Spanish' - Allium cepa var. cepa (Folia: Social Garden Tracker & Organiser)
- Onions: GreenShare Factsheets (University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program)
- U.S. Onion Statistics (ERS: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture)