The onion bulb beings forming when exposed to certain lenghts of day and is classified accordingly. Short-day onions have had 12 to 13 hours of daylight, intermediate and long-day varieties have upwards of 14 hours. If you are interested in growing your own onions, check out our tips.
Low in calories, but packed with important nutrients and vitamins, onions have been a key staple to fortify bodies and souls. Onions are members of the 325 member genus Allium family, along with shallots, leeks and garlic - all of which prefer similar growing conditions and can be used somewhat similarly in dishes, but each with their own subtle nuances. In general, I find white onions to be the most versatile, but they are not the least expensive, so experiment as to what best suits your taste buds and wallet.
If you are buying onions - or curious as to when to harvest them - onions should have a vibrant green, fresh looking, crisp stems. Bulbs should be unblemished. Dry onions should be firm and covered tightly in at least one layer of tan to yellow or deep red skin. An onion with a strong aroma should be avoided as that is an indication of damage or rot. Also avoid sprouting onions. When growing onions in the garden, we prefer to harvest some of them as young onions because of the more delicate flavors.
- All purpose yellow onions are typically the least expensive, but are also the most sulfurous, which is what causes you to tear up when the onion is cut. These include varieties such as the Texas Super Sweet. Try cutting these onions under running water to prevent the fumes from reaching your sinuses. Yellow onions add a sharp bite when consumed raw, but sweeten as they are cooked. They are best used in soups, stews, sauteing, grilling or roasting. Their high water content makes them great for caramelizing and poaching.
- Less common, but extremely versatile and delicious are the sweeter white onions, which are now more commonly found in stores. These include the 10/15, Walla Walla, Peruvian and Vidalia onions. They have a more delicate flavor than other onion varieties and work well for pickling, lightly blanched in salads, thinly sliced raw as a garnish, jams and onion rings.
- Red onions have a peppery, bold flavor and are great pickled, grilled and on burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads.
A properly sharpened knife mitigates the amount of tear-inducing chemical, lachrymator, that combines with the moisture in your eyes to form a weak solution of sulfuric acid adn results in the burning sensation one may feel. Cut a thin slice off the stem end, then make a small shallow cut, just through the skin and the top layer of flesh. Peel off both together, then slide or chop as needed. If you need to peel a lot of onions, drop them into biling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then rinse in cold water. Slice off the stem end and the skins will slip off easily.