On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was touring Charlton Farm Produce near Devonport in Tasmania when he picked up an onion. Then, without flinching, he bit into it and began eating it, skin and all.

"Better than any other onions I've eaten in a long time," Abbott was quoted as saying by local newspaper, the Mercury.

Chomping into a raw onion as if it were an apple is an unusual thing to do. The owner of Charlton Farm could apparently offer no explanation for Abbott's act. “It was just spontaneous, and there weren’t even any tears," David Addison told the Mercury.

Abbott, a conservative politician better known internationally for an ill-advised threat to body-check Russian President Vladimir Putin, has had a rough time of it recently, facing numbers suggesting high unpopularity within the country and challenges to his political leadership. Just before his onion-eating moment, he had been criticized for a "patronizing" video released for St. Patrick's Day.

On Twitter, many observers tried to find the political meaning in the onion.

Whatever the meaning of the onion, it appears to have overshadowed the somewhat duller official message of the trip – a $200 million expansion of a freight shipping subsidy scheme.

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