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Regina Rossa: Calabrian red onion considered kitchen royalty


Ever heard of la Regina Rossa of Tropea? If not, in almost every Italian kitchen, la Regina Rossa, the Red Queen who hails from Calabria is regarded as a member of an elite family. And that family is known in the Bel Paese as the cipolla (onion), the “queen of the kitchen.”

While during the Italian fall harvest most attention is focused on the harvesting of grapes, in Calabria the Regina Rossa, which just happens to be the peninsula’s most prized onion, is also an important harvest crop. In 2008 the European Union registered the regal Cipolla Rossa di Tropea (Red Onion of Tropea) under its Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) mark.

Available year round, the new season of Regina Rossa is seeded under the cool air of the fall in the fields around Capo Vaticano overlooking the Calabrese stretch of the Tyrrhenian seacoast. In May-June she’s harvested, and in June-July she begins to appear at countless open-air markets and the most popular supermarket chains throughout Italy and even in some large Italian neighborhood stores and markets in the United States.

Almost as devoted subjects, the Italians love their Regina Rossa. As their culinary queen, she’s sweet; so much so that some even make marmalade out of her. In a sense it seems that they pay homage to any fresh salad over which she is sliced or when she’s alongside meats and seafood, or skewered onto juicy  and colorful spiedini  (shish kebabs).

If you are close to one of the several authentic Italian markets in the tri-state area, ask about the availability of the authentic Regina Rossa of Tropea. If they are available, take the opportunity to try Calabria’s  sweet-tasting, deep-purple “royal” red onion in your kitchen.  

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