There is perhaps a new way for beachcombers to classify their findings during a walk along the shore. Minerals have always been obvious; sand and rocks check that box. And animals, both live and dead, are commonly observed.

Vegetative matter, such as seaweeds and rooted plants, would be the usual culprits when thinking of plants, but recently a different type of vegetable made an appearance. The new kids on the shoreline were not your typical beachgoer. They were the type of vegetables found in local grocery stores, in the pantry and in your soup.

Amanda Dickinson was the first to sound the alarm over the presence of a garden vegetable, and from her report came a cornucopia of crops locally described from Island coast to coast. Red onions, Amanda noted, littered the beach from Spring Point to Menemsha.

The onion hunt was on. More red onions were reported by others across Vineyard beaches: at Cedar Tree Neck, Brickyard beach, Menemsha Hills, Great Rock Bight, Philbin, and even the Vineyard Haven Harbor beach. Other adventurers jumped in with their own accounts of beach produce. White onions at Moshup, yellow onions and squash at State Beach, broccoli at Gay Head, cantaloupe at Lobsterville, and a single jalapeño on Marble Beach (if you don’t know where Marble Beach is, the finder isn’t telling). There were pictures for proof.

Then stories of interesting past beach finds emerged: thousands of K-cups on South Beach, coconuts, a shoreline of sneakers, and red delicious apples (which the reporter observed were still edible so suggested making onion soup with the washed-up alliums).

The elusive and rarely observed onion migration, which happens before the peppers fly south for the winter, could have been interrupted, causing these roots to fall from the sky, someone suggested. Puns were irresistible and came in a cascade of comments. Should we clean up the crops? Only if they lettuce. Can it be believed, or is it just a bunch of bologna? Commenters came up with a plethora of possible causes that ranged from the reasonable to the conspiratorial.

Was there a ship that lost its cargo? Maybe. How about a boat that inadvertently lost its provisions? Or possibly it was onions dumped after a 2020 recall due to salmonella? It could be a practical joke on Islanders or just more 2020 weirdness. Even the Russians were blamed for the culinary collusion.

Whatever the cause, the profusion of produce provided a much-needed smile and laugh for many of us. Maybe it was a manna from heaven, a joke, or a well-orchestrated January April Fool’s Day. Whatever the reason for the beach harvest, it has been fun peeling back the layers of suggestions and slicing and dicing the discussion. Though not fried, these onions (and their vegetative brethren) were an interesting way to ring in the New Year.

Suzan Bellincampi is executive director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.