Lasalgaon, situated in Niphad taluk of Nashik district is the biggest market for onions not only in India but in Asia! Maharashtra is the biggest producer of onions in the country and unknown to many, the famed Lasalgaon onion also known as Niphad red or Nashik red influences the rate of onion in the Asian market.
Locals say that the light red onion variety has been grown in and around Lasalgaon since many generations. The traditional method of storage (chawl) and cultivation has been practised for the last six decades at least. The climatic conditions and soil is very conducive for the production of this light red variety of onion.
The black soil of Lasalgaon has high alumina and carbonates of calcium and magnesium, low nitrogen and phosphorus as well as potash. The soil is only moderately alkaline which renders a good yield and excellent quality onion bulbs. As the soil has high sulphur content, the taste and pungency of the onion is much more evident and higher than other varieties. It has been observed by farmers that if this variety is grown elsewhere, the same quality of onion is not produced.
Nashik district receives average rainfall of 2600 mm – 3000mm in the year and humidity is about 43 percent to 62 percent. Though the air is very heavy and humid during the monsoon period, the rest of year sees dry weather that aids the cultivation of onion.
Generally the production of onion happens in three seasons that is Kharif (May – July to October – December), late Kharif (August – September to January – March) and Rabi (October – November to April – June). However, the high yielding Lasalgaon light red variety is grown in the Rabi season (October to March). Sowing happens in October – November and the field is ploughed (deshiplaugh) thoroughly using the tractor. Previously, the harvested onion bulbs were stored in the traditional chawl made of bamboo and this led to significant losses for the farmers due to lack of aeration. Now, a large commercial onion storage has been built by NAFED in Nashik which is a multi-tier structure with aeration in the bottom perfect for drying and storing the harvested onion bulbs.
Lasalgaon onion is extremely popular because of its light red colour, pungency, size (bigger than other varieties) and long shelf life. As it is larger in size, it is more easy to cut with lesser wastage and preferred for domestic and commercial use. This variety of onion has many outer dried layers as compared to other varieties and this protects the inner bulb of the onion as well as increases storage time. The storage life of this variety is about 8 – 9 months which is considered to be very high.
Lasalgaon onion is rich in Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, minerals, Calcium and Iron and has many medicinal properties. The onions from Lasalgaon market are transported across India and exported to Singapore and Malayasia.
Lasalgaon onion was granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016. As this variety of onion has tremendous export potential and is available throughout the year, Government undertakings are in place for the use of technology to preserve the quality and freshness of this agricultural produce.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)