Medley of Onions
Related to the lily, this underground bulb is prized around the world for the magic it makes in a multitude of dishes with its pungent flavor and odor. There are two main classifications of onion-green onions (also called scallions) and dry onions, which are simply mature onions with a juicy flesh covered with dry, papery skin.
Dry onions come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and flavors. Among those that are mild flavored are the white or yellow Bermuda onion, available March through June; the larger, more spherical Spanish onion, which is usually yellow skinned (but can be white) and in season from August to May; and the red or Italian onion, which is available year-round.
The stronger-flavored globe onions can have yellow, red or white skins. They can range from 1 to 4 inches in diameter and in flavor from mildly pungent to quite sharp. Among the special onion varieties are three exceedingly juicy specimens. The Maui onion, hailing-as its name implies-from the Hawaiian island of the same name, is sweet, mild and crisply moist. It can range in color from white to pale yellow and is usually shaped like a slightly flattened sphere.
An onion plant lives for only two years.
The Maui onion’s season is from April to July. Vidalia onions are the namesake of Vidalia, Georgia, where they thrive. At their best, these large, pale yellow onions are exceedingly sweet and juicy. Vidalia onions are usually available from May through June only in the regions where grown or by mail order.
The state of Washington is the source of Walla Walla onions, named after the city of the same name. Large, round and golden, they’re in season from June to September but are usually available outside their growing area only by mail order.
Oso Sweet onions hail from South America and, as their name suggests, are extremely succulent and sweet and, in fact, contain almost 50 percent more sugar than Vidalias. They’re available in specialty produce markets from January through March. Another import is the Rio Sweet onion, which is predictably sweet and available from October through December. Tiny pearl onions are mild-flavored and about the size of a small marble. They can be cooked (and are often creamed) and served as a side dish or pickled and used as a condiment or garnish (as in the gibson cocktail).
Boiling onions are about 1 inch in diameter and mildly flavored. They’re cooked as a side dish, used in stews and pickled. When buying onions, choose those that are heavy for their size with dry, papery skins with no signs of spotting or moistness. Avoid onions with soft spots.
Store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation for up to 2 months (depending on their condition when purchased). Humidity breeds spoilage in dry onions. Once cut, an onion should be tightly wrapped, refrigerated and used within 4 days.
Dried or freeze-dried onion by-products include onion powder (ground dehydrated onion), onion salt (onion powder and salt), onion flakes and onion flavoring cubes. Onions are also sold canned or pickled (usually pearl onions) and frozen (whole or chopped).
Onions contain a fair amount of vitamin C with traces of other vitamins and minerals.
Onions should be dry and hard. Avoid onions with wet necks, this indicates decay. Also, avoid onions that have sprouted. Onions can be stored at either room temperature or refrigerated.
To keep onions on hand for two or three months without sprouting, remove them from their mesh or plastic sack and put them in a brown paper bag on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
To shed fewer tears when slicing onions, cut the root off last, refrigerate before slicing and peel them under cold water.
When cutting onions, place a piece of bread on the tip of the knife to absorb the fumes.
When cutting an onion, control your tears by starting at the top. The sulfuric compounds that make you cry are concentrated in the root end. When you are using only half an onion, use the top half. The root end will stay fresher longer.
After slicing onions, wash your hands in cold water, then rub them with salt.
Salt or vinegar will remove onion smells from your hands.
If you chew gum while peeling onions you may not cry. Try it!
Store onions in a glass jar leaving the root intact and they should keep for weeks.
Varieties of onions include pearl, yellow globe, Spanish, white globe, boiling, large whites, red globe, shallots and large reds.
If you need only half of an onion, use the top half. The root will stay fresh longer in the refrigerator.
To prolong the life of onions, wrap individual green onions in a sheet of aluminum foil.
The number of skins on an onion at harvest tells how cold the coming winter will be. If the layers are few and thin, the winter will be mild. If the layers are numerous and thick, the winter will be fierce.
An Old Onion Remedy For Fever
Chop onions finely and wear to bed in socks. Fever will be drawn to the feet and the onions will cook.
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