If you had ever driven up or down to Kenting by car, somewhere in areas near Fangliao, Fangshan, and more down in the Hengchun area, depending on the season, you sure will start to see almost neverending onion vendors offering you this product for sometimes incredible prices for an industrial level quantity.
This is because Baoli (保力), as well as the neighboring areas of Tongpu (統埔) and Checheng(車城), are the main onion-producing areas in Hengchun Peninsula.
The reason here will become the home of onion in Taiwan is all because of the downhill wind.
Onion field in Hengchun area
The first character of the Chinese name of onion 洋 Yáng (洋蔥Yángcōng) gives the meaning that the vegetables are introduced to China from the West, or it is of a foreign nature.
However, as for Taiwan, Onions were introduced to Taiwan in 1912, and the successful cultivation of onions on the Hengchun Peninsula began in 1945. The howling downhill wind that blows away insect pests and humid fog make this place the best environment to grow onions.
The strong downhill wind also prevents foliage growth so that the onion bulb gets the most nutrients for a more pungent flavor and sweeter taste.
Onions are an important economic crop of the Hengchun Peninsula. March and April is the onion harvest time; every year in those months you can see yellow-brown onions everywhere in Hengchun, Checheng, and Fenggang.
Just reminding again, that the Three Wonders of Hengchun that grow in the downslope Kenting Wind are Onion, Sisal Hemp, and Gangkou Tea.
Harvesting Onions in April
Onion is considered as the earliest vegetable planted in the world, it is originated in Iran, Afghanistan, and other regions in Southwest Asia.
It is initially introduced into Egypt and the Mediterranean before being introduced into China.
Hence, the Chinese name of the onion is obtained.
Onion has several other Chinese names. The edible parts are the underground thick bulbs. These sphere-like onions which are growing under the ground are made of scaly, thick leaf sheaths that are shrunk in the ground. Because there is drastic climate change in Central Asia where onions originated, the air is dry, and the changes in soil humidity are more obvious.
Choosing the right time to plant is the key to the success of onions
During the developmental process of system, the special ecology of the onion is shaped: shortened stem disc, wet-loving root system, drought-tolerant leaf type, and bulbs with storage function. In this way, the conditions for planting onion should include a huge change in the temperature difference between morning and evening, light of medium and high intensity, loose water-retaining soil which is fertile as well as a dry climate.
When I glance at the color of Kenting Onions, the first that comes to mind is the sunshine of Kenting Beaches and sunsets.
These conditions explain why onion production from Hengchun Peninsula can account for 80% of the total production in Taiwan.
The geology of the peninsula belongs to the coral reef regolith, it is rich in organic matter, and it is the most suitable soil for the growth of onions.
After the farmers plant onion seedlings during early autumn, the onion seedlings will grow roots and germinate within about a week.
A month later, the thick stem begins to grow, and after entering the downhill wind period, the strong wind often blows the stems and leaves crooked.
The cylindrical onions are hollow; when the leaves with waxy surfaces cannot protect themselves, they naturally realize that their lives are threatened, and hence they will store all the water and nutrients in the scales to preserve lives and to wait for the opportunity to re-sprout in the coming year.
Because of this, if the downhill wind period of this year is long and strong, the grown onions will be fatter and more delicious; conversely, the weaker the downhill wind, the better growing of the stems and the leaves of the onions. Hence, the onions will be smaller in size and lighter in taste.
The people of Hengchun Peninsula who went through hundreds of years of downhill wind have long learnt the philosophy of onions living mutually with the harsh environment.