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Know your onions – 14 facts about France’s superstar vegetable

Legend has it that French onion soup was invented by Louis XV after a day's hunting. Here we look at some more onion trivia

Leaving a cut open onion lying on a table is considered to bring bad luck Pic: NUM LPPHOTO / Shutterstock

1. On average, French households consume 3kg of onions each year, making onions France’s sixth most consumed vegetable 

2. Around 80% of French households buy onions at least once a year 

3. France exports 80-90,0000 tonnes of onions every year, including to Holland (32,902 tonnes), Spain (10,754 tonnes) and Italy (9,894 tonnes) 

Read more: The onion - flavours, dishes and festivals to celebrate a French icon

4. France produces 321,000 tonnes of onions per year, making it Europe’s seventh largest grower

5. France’s main onion production regions are Centre-Loire Valley (32%), Picardie (18%), Champagne-Ardenne (14%), Burgundy (10%) and Nord-Pas De Calais (6%). 

6. The department of Eure-et-Loir is the leading producer with 72,000 tonnes a year, followed by Aisne (34,100 tonnes), Aube (31,000 tonnes), Cote d’Or (23,700 tonnes), Marne (17,600 tonnes)

7. Onions have been cultivated for at least 5,000 years. They are mentioned in ancient Egyptian manuscripts as well as in the Bible 

Read more: Brexit and Covid mean the last true French Onion Johnnies have gone

8. Around forty different varieties are cultivated in France, but yellow onions are the most widely grown 

9. Back in the Middle Ages, onions were thought to possess both medicinal and magical properties 

10. Leaving a cut open onion lying on a table is considered to bring bad luck 

11. Christopher Columbus introduced the onion to the Caribbean in 1493 (they were a favourite with sailors because they can be stored for long periods and protect against scurvy)

Read more: ‘S’occuper de ses oignons’ and other phrases you may hear today

12. Onion soup has existed for as long as onions have been grown. Legend has it that French onion soup was invented by Louis XV who had a late-night snack attack in his hunting lodge but found only onions, butter and champagne in the pantry 

13. The ability of onions to mask the smell of wines and spirits on the breath led to onion soup being called la soupe des ivrognes (drunkards’ soup)

14. One portion (100 grams) of onion contains 40 calories

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