Allium and Sequoia

You might not think that onions and redwood trees have much to do with each other, and ordinarily you would be correct. But in Vacaville, California, a beautiful grove of redwoods exists very much as a result of a lot of onions.

As a kid, I never gave much thought to Vacaville except for those occasions in the 1960s and early 1970s when my family passed through it via Interstate 80 on our way to the San Francisco Bay Area. No matter what I was doing, I was instantly aware we were approaching Vacaville because of the distinct aroma of onions pervading the air. To me, Vacaville might as well have been named “Onion-town,” although I never tried to pinpoint the source of the smell.

If Google had been around back then, I would have quickly learned about the Hume brothers, Jack and William, and their Basic Vegetable Products, which was founded in California’s Central Valley and moved to Vacaville in 1939. During the Second World War, this company quickly became the primary source of dried onion and garlic for the U.S. military as well as their allies. In 1966, company founder Jack Hume filed a patent named “Process of producing large dehydrated onion pieces.” Basic Vegetable Products remained based in Vacaville until 1986, when they — and their pungent aroma — relocated to King City, on California’s Central Coast. Jack Hume passed away in 1991.

Jack Hume Grove was established in 1982 and originally consisted of 100 Sequoia saplings planted from 5-gallon buckets. It was expanded to twice its original size in 1992. This gorgeous, peaceful grove is part of the city of Vacaville’s tribute to a successful businessman and philanthropist who helped put Vacaville on the map.

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