Taking a Look at Onions

You see them everywhere: the grocery, sandwiches, soups, guacamole, fajitas… They seem to be inescapable. If you can eat them, they are really good for your health, too.

Let us take a look at the ubiquitous onion (Allium cepa).

There are numerous varieties of onions available. We will pare them down to the simplest categories, some of their best uses, and if I can hunt them down fairly quickly, names of a few of the varieties.

The “heat” in an onion is in direct proportion to the amount of sulfur in the soil and the amount of water available to the individual plantings. Apparently ANY onion can be made more or less strong by controlling these two conditions.

SWEET ONION
From Wiki: A sweet onion is a variety of onion that is not pungent. Their mildness is attributable to their low sulfur content and high water content when compared to other onion varieties.
-Vidlia, Texas 1015, Walla Walla, Sweetie Sweet, Sunbrero, Carzalia, and several others
-best for frying as onion rings
-use for: onion rings, gratins, roasted vegetables

RED ONION
From Wiki: Red onions, sometimes called purple onions, are cultivars of the onion with purplish red skin and white flesh tinged with red.These onions tend to be medium to large in size and have a mild to sweet flavor. They are often consumed raw, grilled or lightly cooked with other foods, or added as color to salads. They tend to lose their redness when cooked.
-Turda, Tropea, Wethersfield
-best for eating raw
-use for: guacamole, pickled onion, salads, sandwiches

WHITE ONION
From Wiki: White onion is a type of dry onion that has a pure white skin and a sweet, mild white flesh. This onion is used in Mexican foods or complementing the flavors of other ingredients. The onion can be sautéed to a dark brown color and served to provide a sweet and sour flavor to other foods.
-Super Star, Texas Early White, Ringmaster, White Bermuda
-crunchiest and most peppery
-use for: salsas, chutneys, stir-fries, fajitas

YELLOW ONION
From Wiki: The yellow onion or brown onion is a variety of dry onion with a strong flavor. White inside, its layers of papery skin have a yellow-brown color.It has a rich onion taste and is fit for food dishes like French onion soup. Yellow onions are typically available throughout the year. This onion is higher in sulfur than the white onion, which gives it a stronger, more complex flavor.
-Granex, Highlander, Texas Legend
-best all-around cooking onion
-use for: meat roasts, braised meat dishes, sauces, soups, stews

SHALLOT
From Wiki: The skin colour of shallots can vary from golden brown to gray to rose red, and their off-white flesh is usually tinged with green or magenta.
-Pikant, Atlas and Ed’s Red
-milder and more subtle
-use for: vinaigrettes, egg casseroles, garnishes, pickling for martini onions, Asian/Middle Eastern/Southern European/British dishes

There are a lot of other onions out there. If you can lay your hands of varietals such as a Wakegi, I’itoi, scallions, or any heotrs with names you don’t recognize – try them!

— Ann Cathey

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