Onion garlands, Bern, Switzerland

 

Onions, in all their garlanded glory, are the basis for Bern’s Zibelmärit. They are colorful and pretty to look at in your kitchen, dangling amongst the pots and pans, and they keep for weeks, if not months. And of course, they are food! But they’re not the only foodstuffs on offer in Bern at the Onion Market.

A taste of Switzerland at the Zibelmärit

The market that began with fresh produce from the Fribourg region now presents a raft of food products from around Switzerland, such as risotto to go with Ticinese wine, and grappa-laced coffee; and all sorts of candies and cookies.

And the ubiquitous (delicious) onion and cheese pies.
The necklaces of wrapped candies are edible. I was told these would have been necklaces made of tiny onions, in times gone by.

Here is a run-down on the other items I spotted/tasted/brought home from my day at the Onion Market.

For the sweet tooth

Pain d’épices was a treat to sample in the early morning hours. The only thing missing was a cappuccino to go along with it, and that I found at a nearby cafe.
The centerpiece of the same stall was nougat, which came with myriad flavorings added. The almond with cranberries seemed to be going fast.
Mandelbärli, a Bern confection, are available everywhere. One confectioner put a table outside with baskets of the sweet almond bears (as backup for the onion pies perhaps?).

For the carnivore

All manner of sausages were for sale, including spiced horsemeat.
These sausages of lamb with chilies, I had to try.

For the cheese lover

What would any Swiss market be without cheese? Nibbles from rounds of Gruyere were popular.
Etivaz, anyone?

For the condiment-crazed (count me in!)

Syrups, herbal and floral reductions come in many flavors, and local preparations can be found at all seasonal markets I’ve been to in Switzerland. I’m not sure exactly what might be in the “Feel-like-a-bird syrup” or the “Syrup of magic fire”, but loved the lively colors.
A personal favorite is onion relish, which is a wonderful spread for slices of toasted bread, as an accompaniment to wintertime vegetable soups. This time, though,  I brought home a jar of pumpkin chutney, available from the same producer.
And then there was garlic, which came hung with onions on wreaths, or in garlic bundles.
Garlic was also put out as peeled cloves, ready to sample. I found these while munching on a Zibelmärit crowd-pleaser: toasted garlic bread. These were doused with herbs, but I went for the ones bathed in harissa, a condiment that doesn’t last long around my house.

For the commuter

Zibelmärit takes place on a workday, and shops and restaurants in the main train station make it easy to sample the Onion Market—and a taste of Switzerland—without without stepping outside.

At lunchtime, raclette was available for takeout, warmed cheese scooped onto plates with the traditional fixings: brown bread, gherkins, and pickled onions.
Zibelmärit fare, from pies to sweets, was readily available in the Bern train station.

At bread stands and in bakeries in the station, there were also loaves aplenty, plus Schnecken (“snails” of coiled dough dotted with raisins and bits of marzipan), Gipfeli (aka croissants), and various pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Grättimaa, officially a bakery item for Saint Nicholas Day, 6 December, were also on offer. Those I will wait for.

 

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