These Onions Are Faintly Obscene

Illustration for article titled These Onions Are Faintly Obscene
Image: Smithsonian Libraries (John A. Salzer Seed Co. 1991. John A. Salzer Seed Co.’s abridged catalogue of plants, seeds and tools, spring 1911., La Crosse.Wis. : The Company.)

Turn-of-the-century seed packets are eye-catching works of commercial art, full of great lush images of roses and other flowers in vivid colors. The Smithsonian Libraries has a collection of 10,000 seed and nursery catalogs, built on a big donation made by Mrs. David Burpee, of the seed company Burpees, many of which you can view here—a nice diversion for a time when many Americans are getting back into home gardening. What’s particularly fun about the Smithsonian’s collection, however, is seeing same loving attention extended to plants that you wouldn’t normally think of as particularly picturesque or lending themselves to drool-worthy illustration. Like, for instance, onions.

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The onions in this collection are depicted so warmly you could practically defrost your hands upon them. These onions are huge, golden and red, like a sun looming over the horizon.

Also nice here is the “mammoth pole bean,” an incredible name.

Illustration for article titled These Onions Are Faintly Obscene
Image: Smithsonian Libraries (ROSS BROS. 1898. VEGETABLE, GRASS AND FLOWER SEEDS no. 1898, 1899, WORCESTER MA.)
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I can’t decide whether this is obscene, or more like some ancient local god of small-scale agriculture. Either way, my mouth is watering thinking about how good this would taste in little slices, roasted to the point of being caramelized slivers.

Illustration for article titled These Onions Are Faintly Obscene
Image: Smithsonian Libraries (John A. Salzer Seed Co. 1991. John A. Salzer Seed Co.’s abridged catalogue of plants, seeds and tools, spring 1911., La Crosse.Wis. : The Company.)

Can’t you just hear their papery rustle in the bag as you dump it into your grocery cart?

Illustration for article titled These Onions Are Faintly Obscene
Image: Smithsonian Libraries (Wm. Henry Maule (Firm). 1906. MAULE SEED BOOK no. 1906, 1906 (2ND ED.), 1907, PHILADELPHIA PA.)

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

pinkbunnyhat
Cheers Pink Ears!

But have you seen the Red Onion Guy from the Wethersfield farmer’s market?