Maui Onions: A Sweet History

February 9, 2011, 6:15 PM HST · Updated February 9, 6:15 PM
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By Erica Garza

Maui onions are sweet, juicy and exclusive to the slopes of Mount Haleakala.

Hawaiian farmers have long claimed that a true Maui onion must be grown on Maui. Still there are various regions outside of the island attempting to cultivate replications. What is it about Maui’s unique atmosphere that makes the farmers stand by their claims?

For one, no other place on Earth is home to the rich, volcanic soil of Mount Haleakala. Farmers attribute the unique sweetness of the true Maui onion to the red volcanic soil of Maui’s majestic, dormant volcano. Pair this geographical characteristic with the island’s warm weather and a Maui onion is born.

Maui onions are distinctively sweet, lacking the sulfur that gives most other onions their sharp taste and tear-producing odor. The onions also have a high water content resulting in a gorgeous juiciness. They’re best available in the spring, when the growing season begins, but they can be found on the island year round.

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Many islanders enjoy eating Maui onions raw, while others prefer to cook them, bringing about an even more intense sweetness. Grilled, the onions can be combined with other vegetables for kebabs, fried for chips, used in soups and dips, sautéed, and puréed into a variety of sauces.

This locally grown delicacy draws thousands of visitors each year to its annual Maui Onion Festival at Whalers Village to get a taste of this sweet onion and learn some new recipes.

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