Onion 101

November 14, 2011

Most of us are pretty familiar with onions, but SupermarketGuru has some tips on how to shop, store as well as some fun facts to share with friends

What are Onions? Onions are part of the lily family and are grown underground. Their flavor and pungent odor make them ideal to use in many dishes and they are used in almost every cuisine around the world.

How to Buy: Onions are classified as either scallions or dry onions. Dry onions are mature onions and are covered with a dry papery skin. Fresh dry bulbs should be bright, plump, with no blemishes, soft spots or cuts; papery skin should cling to bulbs. Onions can also be purchased as pre-diced and sliced and are available either fresh or frozen. Tiny pickled cocktail onions or pre-cooked pearl onions are sold in jars (always read ingredients).

Choices: The majority of all fresh onions sold are yellow; sweetest is Vidalia, followed by red Bermuda and Maui. Very small white onions, (Pearl) and saucer-shaped Italian Cipollini onions are very sweet. Red/Purple onions are slightly sweeter than yellow but do have a bite. Shallots are very mild; if recipe calls for shallots, it is not advised to substitute. Leeks look like very fat, large scallions; taste sweet and mild; they must be thoroughly cleaned between rings for loose dirt and sand. Thin, delicate green chives look like grass, and are sold near the fresh herbs section. Spring onions are larger than scallions, and have vivid burgundy and white bulbs.

How to Use: To slice small or large dry onions and bulbs, remove the end roots and papery skins and discard, then slice, dice or chop. Scallion greens are edible; spring onion greens are too tough. Use in salads or as garnishes; red/purple with meats; yellow is the universal onion for cooking; large white, great raw; use pearls and Cipollini where sweetness is desired. Use only the white part of leeks sautéed or in soups. If cutting onions makes you tear-up, chill them for 20 minutes to diminish some of the noxious vapors.

How to Store: Wrap scallions, leeks, and spring onions securely and refrigerate. Store dry onions in open basket.

For more 101s download our Smarter Shopping App