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While preparing for the giant cook-out we had on Monday – don’t ask – , I of course made my list of things to buy.

A friend and co-worker said, “Are you getting onions?”

My original thought was ah-NO!

Onions make me cry, and since I knew I’d be doing some extra prep for this one, I really hadn’t planned on buying onions.

After he offered to cut them, I thought, “What the heck. I’ll pick UP a few.”

Of course, onions aren’t just onions.

There are white ones

Red ones.

Yellow ones.

Green ones.

All kinds.

Of course, there’s also the Vidalia onion.


The Vidalia onion is a sweet onion grown in a production area defined by law in Georgia and by the United States Code of Federal Regulations.

Now, as an expatriate living in Georgia, I can see how the legislature has time to worry about simple things like Onions, but the Federal Government – I mean, isn’t there a war going on?

Oh, and there’s a committee too.  The Vidalia Onion Committee.  This auspicious board defines just exactly what it takes to be a Vidalia onion.

Well, first of all, they have to be grown in Georgia.

The first were grown in Vidalia, hence the name, Georgia, in the early 1930s.  The onions are unusually sweet because of the low amount of sulfur in the soil where the onions are produced.

A Georgian named Mose Coleman is believed to be the person who discovered the sweet Vidalia Onion variety in 1931.

The Georgia State House has been busy.  They defined the area where Vidalias are grown.  If your onion doesn’t come from Emanuel, Candler, Treulten, Bullock, Wheeler, Montgomery, Evans, Tattnall, Toombs, Telfair, Jeff Davis, Appling, Bacon counties, or parts of Jenkins, Screven, Laurens, Dodge, Pierce, Wayne, and Long Counties, well, they’re just not Vidalia onions.

Here’s a map, just in case you think you’ve been hood-winked!

Vidalia Onion Country

Using all their clout at once, and bowing to the pleas of producers and handlers, and meeting the standards defined by Georgia law, the USDA came UP with a Federal Marketing Order (CFR Title 7, Part 955) which defined the production area.

Really, I’d rather have had more money for roads.

And to top it all off, the Vidalia onion was named Georgia’s official state vegetable in 1990.

I guess it’s OK to have a state vegetable, but then what do we call the Governor?

Of course, the boys in the Gold Dome kept going. Georgia’s state legislature passed the “Vidalia Onion Act of 1986” authorizing a trademark for “Vidalia Onions” and limiting the production area to Georgia or any subset as defined by the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture, just in case we annex Alabama or something like that.

The sweet onions aren’t only yummy, they’ve made their way into culture too.  Country singer Sammy Kershaw, who is NOT from Georgia, has a song, released in 1996, called Vidalia, it’s about a woman named Vidalia who always makes him cry.



American Musician, Andrew Bird, formerly of Squirrel Nut Zippers, and who is from Chicago, which is also not in Georgia, has a song called Vidalia as well.  It is actually an ode to the sweet Georgia veggie.

Andrew Bird

Again, touching.

Either way, I hope your Memorial Day Cook Out was great, and I hope you got someone else to slice the onions, Vidalia or not!

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