I wonder why onions are so cheap when they need such space to grow.

There is a Breton custom which began two hundred years ago. I heard about it first from a merry old man who ran a guest house in Brittany and gave us croissants to eat in the buttery sun. He used to be a ‘johnny’ and travelled with his bike to Wales every year to sell pink onions.

Till I met Maxim grinning on the street behind the traffic, I thought it was a story of old. But Yes I am a Johnny! he said, with ropes of onions, garlic and shallots garlanding his bicycle too loaded to pedal. The bike is just for ornamentation he confessed.

He strings up the onions in a summer dust barn and comes to Wales on the boat for the autumn operation, which is run from a warehouse in Cardiff.

Johnnies, onions and bicycles are despatched at rainy high streets and markets, and collected again in a van. Maxim used to be a solar engineer, but he prefers the onion life.

I have been thinking about onions these last two days as I peeled my way through a pickling sack.

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