Monday, 16 September 2013

Know Your Onions


Great excitement this weekend when I spotted an Onion Johnny in the streets of Ludlow. Himself and I were there visiting The Ludlow Food Festival, an event which we have been intending to go to for years but somehow have never managed it. This September though the stars were in alignment and we finally made it. Ageing camper van, or should I say vintage camper van headed for Little Stretton and Small Batch Camping Site, which we would certainly return to. Situated at the foot of the Long Mynd, this is a small picturesque site ideally positioned for serious walkers and for other less energetic visitors like us whose walking on this occasion, was limited to locating the two excellent local pubs.

On Saturday we ditched the camper van in favour of the local bus service into Ludlow where we wiled away a pleasant few hours meandering round the town. The Food and Drink Festival itself is centred in the grounds of Ludlow CastleThere were all sorts of food vendors exhibiting as well as demonstrations and events taking place including a sausage trail and a real ale trail. We were quite restrained though not taking part in the trails but having the odd sample here and there of the various food and drinks that were for sale. I would have liked to have seen more fruit and vegetables in the mix especially considering the time of year. We did come across though the excellent Cottage Herbery stand, with various herbs and plants for sale from which a couple of purchases were made.

Heading back into town was where we came across the onions. I was taking photos of the striking and sometimes wonky black and white buildings that are to be found throughout the town, when I was distracted by a glimpse of onions in the distance. Of course I had to make a beeline in their direction for a closer look and was delighted to see strings of delicious pink Roscoff onions for sale. We have bought these onions on French holidays and love their sweet taste so it was brilliant to see them for sale much nearer to home. A plait was duly purchased and the first onion was used on Saturday night, to accompany the sausages that we bought before leaving town and heading back to the campsite.

In case you are wondering 'Onion Johnny' was the nickname given to the Breton farmers and agricultural labourers who sold Roscoff onions in the United Kingdom. This trade started in the nineteenth century reaching its peak in the 1920s. The onion sellers traveled by bicycle and made door to door sales throughout the country. They often wore distinctive striped shirts and usually wore a beret. There are only a handful of them left now and I suppose events like food festivals are an excellent opportunity for them to promote Brittany. We've visited the Maison des Johnnies and the L'Oignon Rosé museum in Roscoff, which holds a fascinating collection of paraphernalia and a photographs recording the history of the Onion Johnnies. I don't remember though seeing such a young and carefree looking character as this young man gracing the streets of Ludlow.

16 comments:

  1. Well, you learn something new every day, I'd never heard of Onion Johnnies before. It sounds like you had a good time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes that old adage is most true Jo :) We did indeed have a good time.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for telling me about Onion Johnny who has been a stranger to me up to now.Didn't know about the museum either. In Bern/Switzerland they have an onion market once a year where you can buy all sorts of varieties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pleased to have introduced you to Onion Johnny Annette. The onion market in Bern sounds most interesting - I would be tempted to come back with one of every variety so that I could do some serious taste testing.

      Delete
  3. But was he a real FRENCH Onion Johnny (not that I had heard that phrase before either), Anna? I am convinced that in the deep recesses of my ageing brain I can remember one of them arriving at our door in Edinburgh in the 50s. Glad you enjoyed the foodie experience in Ludlow - such a lovely town. By the way, we are currently mulling over the possibility of buying a small camper van and will be heading for the campervan show in Lincoln at the w/e to have a look... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes he was definitely a real French onion seller Cathy - his accent gave him away :) I know that the onion sellers traveled to the corners of the UK but fancy you remembering one. I can remember various door sellers in the '50s including the greengrocer whose transport was a horse and cart. However no memories of onion sellers - will have to ask my mum. Ludlow indeed is a lovely town. Good luck with the camper van hunting. Should you be tempted we can recommend a little site situated in an old apple orchard in walking distance of Ludlow :)

      Delete
  4. How lovely to see a real onion seller - I didn't realise they travelled to England too. Our region is well-known for its onions, but I've never seen streetsellers here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The history of the onion sellers is most fascinating Cathy - what a different world it was. I wonder what sort of onions grow in your neck of the woods.

      Delete
  5. Great photo, and a nice bit of history, too!
    Have a wonderful day!
    Lea
    Lea's Menagerie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad that you enjoyed the post Lea. Thanks for your comment :)

      Delete
  6. Those onions look fantastic, I hadn't realised that the onion sellers still came over here to sell their wares, I haven't seen any for years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The onions taste fantastic too Pauline. That's the first time I've seen a French onion seller over here. I doubt if they make much in the way of profit Pauline but I'm sure that their presence at such events is great promotion for Brittany.

      Delete
  7. I don't know Ludlow, except where it is on the map and you've made me think it's worth a visit. What a wonderful weekend you've had, the food festival, great pubs and a great campsite! Nice to get away and even nicer to bring back an edible prize reminiscent of other holidays! I like the sound of those pink onions .... wondering now if they're available to grow in this country?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope that you get to visit Ludlow at some point Caro. It's a great little town. As far as I know Roscoff onions are only grown in a small area of Brittany which made it so exciting to stumble across some for sale over here :)

      Delete
  8. This made me smile. I recognised those guys from the Abergavenny Food Festival at the weekend. It's annoying though as a) we forgot to go back and take a photo and b) buy any onions. Ah well! There's always next year. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh they must be doing the rounds then WW. I loved the bottle of red wine placed in front of the bike.
    You will just have to return to Abergavenny next year - you have have the perfect excuse :)

    ReplyDelete

All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.