Bangalore rose onion or gulabi eerulli as it known locally is a unique variety of onion that is found only in and around Bangalore in the state of Karnataka. This particular rose onion is exclusively grown for the export market in one of the 16 taluks or districts of Bengaluru urban, Bengaluru rural, Kolar and Chikkaballapur in about 5,000 acres of land.
These areas have deep fertile mekkalu soil (alluvial soil) and sand mix of red soil with good drainage and pH ranging between 6.5 to 7, an atmospheric humidity of 70 to 75 percent and temperatures ranging from 25 °C to 35 °C which is ideally suited for growing Bangalore rose onion. It is undoubtedly the climatic and soil conditions that defines the distinctive quality, pungency, taste and physical characteristics of the Bangalore rose onion that sets it apart from other varieties.
Bangalore rose onion has a flat base bulb, is spherically shaped, has a deep scarlet red colour, has high pungency and is packed with phenols and anthocyanins. It is this high level of pungency that makes this variety preferable in making pickles. Bangalore rose onion also has higher levels of protein, phosphorous, iron and carotene.
Around 80 percent of Bangalore rose onion is produced during the Rabi season, 15 percent in the kharif season and the remaining comes as a summer crop.
It is estimated that the annual production of Bangalore rose onion generally cultivated by marginal farmers is more than 60,000 tons per year of which 90 percent is shipped to South-East Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan where it is used for seasoning, pickling and as a dehydrated powder.
Even though Bangalore rose onion is not consumed much locally or domestically, it was awarded the coveted Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2015 for its superior flavour and heady aroma.
The export potential of this variety of onion is immense which needs to be explored further to generate more value-added products for the marginal farmers who are highly dependent on the income generated from shipping abroad. As onions are highly perishable whose value reduces as the weight of the onion comes down when the moisture in it evaporates, processing units where these rose onions can be sold as seasoning or in the form of dehydrating powders should be looked into.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)