Straight from Ashkelon to Your Table: The Ascalonian

“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic…” (Numbers 11:5)

While Ashkelon is noted for many things, such as Philistines, the oldest arched gateway, and horrific Roman-era sewers, it has another, lesser-known claim to fame. It is also the hometown of one of the world’s most popular vegetables: the onion.

More specifically, it is famous for a particular variety of the Alum family. During the Roman era, the name Ashkelon was latinized, becoming Ascalon or Ascalonia. Among the city’s many exports, such as its famous wine, it also cultivated a smaller variety of onion that did not tend to mature to the full bulb, and was known for its mild flavor. Writers such as Theophrastus and Strabo expounded on the qualities of this humble root. And, since it was cultivated in Ascalon, it became known as the ascalonian, or escalonia. Pliny the Elder described it in The Natural History as:

The Ascalonian onion is of a peculiar nature, being barren in some measure in the root; hence it is that the Greeks have recommended it to be reproduced from seed, and not from roots: the transplanting, too, they say, should be done later in the spring, at the time the plant germinates, the result being that it bulbs with all the greater rapidity, and hastens, as it were, to make up for lost time; great dispatch, however, is requisite in taking it up, for when ripe it rots with the greatest rapidity. If propagated from roots, it throws out a long stalk, runs rapidly to seed, and dies.

As the name passed through many centuries and many tongues, it was altered slightly into the French shallot and English scallion. 

Ascalonion

The Mighty Ascalonian

Today, scallions are still cultivated in the park, though the crops often suffer from foraging picnicking parties and barbeques. However, in forgotten corners, they have grown quite large, with huge clusters that blossoming archaeologists have to clean out of their grids with pickaxes. It is rather a disappointment to come home smelling like onions without having had the pleasure of eating them.

Clumps of Ascalonions

Clumps of Ascalonians

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One Response to “Straight from Ashkelon to Your Table: The Ascalonian”

  1. Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life Says:

    Some of those square and rectangular Ascalonians lower in the photo look like mighty crunchy eating!

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