The Story of the Vogliotti Onion

It was one warm summer day, twenty year’s ago or so, that we went to visit our neighbor, Josephine (nee Vogliotti). She was the last living member of her family at age 96 – her brother Ernie was 102 when he died. The family was famous for their “vegii-tables” selling them to the miners by horse-cart in the day and later to folks that would come out to the ranch.

This incredible specimen is a true Murphys’ heirloom from the Vogliotti family. They were Italian market gardeners and also our neighbors for a good many years.  For several years we’d been growing “their” tomato, the Camalay and when we would bring her one to enjoy she would hold it in her hands and smell deeply, exclaiming “this is one of ours, isn’t it?” What a precious moment that was and still is today, after 22 years of growing and saving seed from that tomato, her words spring a tear. It was on one of these visits that Josephine directed us down to the cellar, where she hadn’t been for many years, to a jar on the shelf filled with onion seeds. We took those seeds home and germinated them just as she instructed: “Plant them on the first week after the full moon in August!” Luckily, a few sprouted and we grew our first Vogliotti onion that year. After many trials and near losses, we were able to successfully bring this onion from near extinction to abundance.

We have subsequently grown, harvested and shared many of the seeds with gardening friends to help preserve this now unique variety. The story goes that the onion was bought from Burpee seeds as a “Red Weathersfield” in the early 1890’s and continually grown at the ranch until the early 1990’s. The Vogliottis grew this same variety of seed for 100 years because of it’s flavor! We consider it be the best-tasting summer onions ever. Eaten raw, it is sweet and mild flavored, so wonderful that it is perfect in a Greek salad or in a sandwich with no onion-y aftertaste — equally delicious sauteed or caramalized.