“I have praised everything that exists / but for me, onion / you are more beautiful than a bird / with dazzling feathers, / heavenly globe, platinum goblet, / unmoving dance / of the snowy anemone / and the fragrance of the earth lives / in your cristalline nature”.. Pablo Neruda, Ode alla cipolla.
The Sermide and Paglieria varieties of onion are grown in the Oltrepò mantovano. They are sown in autumn and harvested in summer . The Dorata Invernale variety is also grown, but it is sown in spring and harvested between July and August. Two other widespread varieties are the Maggiolina and the Borettana. The Paglierina variety, cultivated in limited quantities in the Sermide area, is a traditional product of Lombardy. It has a diameter of 50-80 mm and weighs around 120-150 grams. It typically has a pungent flavour when grown in soft clay soils, or a sweet flavour if the soils are sandy. After reaching maturity, it does not keep for more than three months. This has an effect on what farmers choose to grow, and the variety is now at risk of extinction. Corte Gardinala is the keeper of the seed, and soon to be the Sermide Onion Museum. The Paglierina variety has a strictly local market.
fiera del tirot This old speciality is celebrated during the historic Fiera di Felonica. The onion takes centre stage, but there are also harvest traditions and rituals, music and entertainment.
The Paglierina onion is the foundation of the traditional Tirot di Felonica recipe that, since 2013, has been protected by Slow Food with the aim of safeguarding and re-establishing local onions, promoting the local supply chain that connects bakers to farms and defending this uniqueness through a shared effort.
THE VANGHIN The onion is ready to be harvested when the leaves wither, turn yellow and bend towards the ground. The vanghin was once used to do this job, a small spade made specifically to hoe up the bulbs from the ground. The onions are then left on the field for a week, until the stem is completely dry, before being collected.
In Francesco Cherubini’s Il Vocabolario mantovano-italiano from 1827, Ti- rot is described as a “leavened wheat bread that seasoned with onions and sometimes lard, then baked in the oven." A recipe that still pertains today: pulled – or tirato, hence the name – by hand. It is eaten fresh from the oven.
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE • 1 1/2 KG white flour • 1/2 KG Paglierina onion • lard or oil, as needed • yeast • salt to taste
Slice the onion and mix it together with the flour, lard, salt, crumbled yeast and water until a soft dough is formed . Leave to rise. Roll out the dough until it is around 1 cm in thickness, and then spread it evenly on a baking sheet . The resulting bread will be flat, and should be cut into rectangles or diamonds. Bake at 240°C for 45 minutes. It should be served hot.