Onion Tips

by Anna Hanau with Hazon

Onions grow one bulb per plant, with long green stalks (like green onions, but larger) reaching up almost 2’ tall.  Onion stalks are hollow tubes, leeks and garlic have flat leaves, but all plants in the Alium (onion) family have a similar shape: white flavorful bulb at the bottom, long green stalks above.  The entire plant is edible.

You may be getting something from your farmers called a “spring onion” (also sometimes called ‘new’ or ‘raw’).  Onions need to cure after they are harvested – a process where they are laid out in a warm, dry place, for the outer layers to dry up, sealing in the juicy pungent onion inside.  If the outer layers aren’t completely dry, the onion won’t last for months in your pantry.  However, it’s still a perfectly good onion!  You can use a spring onion as you would any other onion, just keep it in your fridge, since without the curing process it won’t hold up on your counter very well.

One summer on the farm we celebrated the onion harvest by making onion rings.  Normally it’s all about the batter and the frying, but when you actually know where the onion inside comes from, it’s a very special treat!  Add some homemade mayo, and you’re set for a gourmet indulgence.  Onions clearly make a great base for just about any other vegetable – sauté slowly to caramelize, and they turn sweet, or throw in raw pieces with a pot of beans to gently flavor the pot.

French Onion Soup gets its flavor from being chock-full of sliced onions—but also from the beef broth in which they are slowly simmered.  If you’re looking to make a vegetarian soup, use a vegetable broth rather than simply just water.  I tried that once and the results were…well…onions boiled in water.  Not quite what I had in mind!