National Museum Highlights Old Onion Trade

July 12, 2014

A photograph recently shared by the National Museum of Bermuda highlights the former glory of the Bermuda onion trade, depicting a man standing in an island onion patch in 1910.

Introduced to the island in the early 1600s, the sweet and succulent Bermuda onion was first exported to the American east coast from St. George’s in 1847.

Onions quickly became Bermuda’s major export crop, with hundreds of farmers realising the market potential. By the middle of the 19th century, Bermudians became known as “Onions” and Bermuda itself was widely referred to as “The Onion Patch.”

Following World War I, although the onion export from Bermuda started again, the U.S. imposed higher import duties, slowing it down considerably. Moreover, by that time a farming community in Texas started developing their own onions, even calling them Bermuda Onions, to sell and export them more easily.

In the 1930s, the Bermuda Trade Development Board tried to curb the trend by sending postcards to their overseas buyers that stated, “It is the flavour of a genuine ‘Bermuda’ that is so different.”

The postcards’ effects were minimal, proving the move to be an exercise in futility, and the era of Bermuda farmers exporting onions came to an end, with tourism replacing agriculture as the island’s economic mainstay. However the “Bermuda onion” nickname endures.

To learn more about Bermuda’s history, follow the National Museum of Bermuda on Instagram.

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