Fifty years ago, no one had even heard of a Vidalia onion: it’s the result of maybe the happiest accident in food and farming history. Seems back in the 1930s, a farmer in Vidalia, GA had promised an onion crop to the local Piggly Wiggly. A late freeze took out the crop. No more onion seedlings were available in Georgia. He finally found some available in Texas and had a boxcar shipped east.
That crop came up looking great — but when it came time for harvest, the onions were shockingly sweet. The farmer thought he was ruined. The store — and shoppers — on the other hand, were delighted. And an industry was born.
There’s something in the soil around Vidalia that makes it the only place on earth an onion will grow like this. And by law, they can only come from a very small production zone with about a 50-mile radius spreading out from Vidalia. It still took another 50 years for that sweet onion to move beyond Vidalia, though. It stayed a local secret until some sharp marketing minds in the 1980s saw the potential, banded together to form the Vidalia Onion Committee, and almost overnight, a new culinary star was born.
In Part 1 of this very special episode we’ll tell you how that story unfolded. You’ll also get to meet the people of Vidalia and take a tour in host Chip Carter’s musical tribute to the spirit and town that made an onion famous. And you’ll see how they’re making Vidalia onions better every day.