What’s on the Market – Onions

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Onions, like garlic are not an ideal option for a first date. Raw, especially red onions, they can be quite pungent. But, once they’re cooked, onions are a sweet and delicious addition to salads, dinners, pizzas and plenty of other dishes.

They are closely related to garlic, and grow underground. The only visible part of a growing onion is a single vertical shoot. Cooking onions are fairly hardy vegetables having a shelf life of three to four weeks without refrigeration. Sweet onions however, such as Vidalia onions, have a shorter shelf life of one to two weeks because of their increased sugar and water content.

Onions are used in almost every cuisine in the world. They provide a mild flavor that is very versatile, especially when using other varieties of onions as well (i.e. green onions). Likewise, onions are grown all over the world, helping supplement the global demand for them. China reigns in production totaling 20,817,295 metric tons of onions yearly. The United States comes in 4th place producing 3,349,170 metric tons a year.

Over twenty states grow onions, pushing onions to the third largest vegetable industry in the United States. They prefer milder climates and are grown in Texas, California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington and other states.

There are also a multitude of varieties of onions in many colors ranging from white to yellow to red. Yellow onions are known to be the sweetest variety of onions and are the best variety for cooking. The paper on the outside is usually a brown – gold color with a yellowish or whitish flesh on the inside.

Onions are also known to make you cry. This is going to be a little intense, but bear with me. When onions are sliced or eaten, their cells are broken resulting in “enzymes called aliinases to break down amino acid sulphoxides and generate sulphenic acids. A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, form[s] when onions are cut, and is rapidly rearranged by a second enzyme, called the lachrymatory factor synthase or LFS, giving syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor or LF. The LF gas diffuses through the air and eventually reaches the eye, where it activates sensory neurons, creating a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant.” Phew. Thanks Wikipedia. Long story short, when you cut onions, they release a gas that makes you cry. Solutions? Leave the tap on, cut under running water, or put those safety goggles you never wore to good use.

For all those leftover onions in the 5lb bag you bought:

  • Cut an onion (depending on the size, maybe two if they’re small) in rings and caramelize them in a pan. Pour some olive oil in and cook the rings slowly until they become a golden translucent color. Put on sandwiches, pizza, salads, burgers, or eat them as is.
    • Similarly, if you have a few red onions rolling around, cut them into rings and throw them into a pan with a little bit of brown sugar for sweetness. These go great on pizza with some fresh mozzarella and prosciutto (an Italian dry-cured ham)
    • Make some onion rings! Take an onion and cut ¼ inch slices. Dip the rings into a mixture of flour, baking powder and salt. Then take an egg with some milk and mix them together. Dip the rings again into the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Cover the rings in some breadcrumbs (put breadcrumbs in a bowl and toss the rings in individually) and then fry! This can be kind of messy, but would be fun for game day!
    • Practice your dicing skills! Diced onions are used in so many dishes from so many cuisines. Italian, Chinese, Indian, you name it. Grab and onion and a cutting board. Cut the onion lengthwise. Peel off the paper. Chop the top part of the onion off (not the base, where the little root things grow out of sometimes). Now, make slices lengthwise, being sure to not cut all the way to the base. Turn, and cut widthwise. And you’ve got yourself diced onion!
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