Didn’t know they were related, did you?
But I bet there’s a lot more you didn’t know. Because I certainly didn’t. At least, not until I did my research.
Onions on the right of you, onions on the left
Let me introduce you to the two types of onions: Green and paper.
Green onions are your basic scallions. Paper onions are any type of onion covered in a papery membrane. And there are all sorts of paper onions.
So let’s look at both types.
Scallions: How green I am
It’s long, it’s thin, and it has a white, bulbous base and long, green leaves.
It’s a scallion!
A mild type of onion, every part of the scallion is edible. Why, it is not uncommon to find a dish, such as a vichyssoise, that calls for the white portion to minced and added to the recipe and the green portion to be chopped and sprinkled on top for garnish. They are also mild enough to be quite nice added, raw, to a salad (and yummy sprinkled on grilled cheese sandwiches).
These store nicely in the refrigerator.
Paper onions: Here’s comes a parade
There are all sorts of varieties of paper onions; many of which can be used interchangeably. So let’s look at these yummy treats.
- Bermuda onion. Available in yellow or white, it’s large and mild.
- Italian onion. This has a lovely red covering and is almost sweet.
- Spanish onion. Large and yellow and wonderfully mild.
- Yellow onions. These are the onions you usually buy in a bag. The workhorse of the onion family, at least for the home cook (I suspect restaurants, at least the more expensive ones, use more shallots), these are strong and only enjoyed cooked, never raw. I always keep a bag of these in the crisper in my refrigerator as a staple.
- Maui onion. This is supposed to be sweet and mild. I haven’t tried it, however, but I will. Oh yes, I will.
- Vidalia onions. Wonderfully sweet and juicy, they are large and yellow and I always try to snag a few whenever I can find them. They don’t have a great shelf life, so I try to use them as soon as possible. There are also Oso Sweet onions and Rio Sweet onions, both of which are supposed to be wonderfully sweet.
- Walla Walla onions. These are from Washington, although how they got from Washington to Walla Walla, I do not know.
- Pearl onions. Tiny, typically used whole, these mildly sweet onions are often served as a side dish.
- Shallots. Mildest of all, although these can be a real bother to peel, they have a lovely, gentle taste.
All sorts of remedies are bandied about for helping with tears — having a lit candle on your counter while you cut, goggles (if you don’t mind looking silly!), freezing the onion beforehand, and so on — none really work to any great extent for me, so I make sure to just enjoy the cry. After cutting, I do wash my hands in cold water in another room in the house (to get away from the onion vapors) and that stops the weeping. At least until I return to the kitchen to chop that next onion.
Yes, there is an official way to chop onions. This feels unnatural to me, so I have my own way. But I freely admit that it does not deliver great results. So I suggest you try this way.
Leek me alone
Yes, leeks are a type of onion, but that’s enough learnin’ for now. Let’s leave those for another day.
Vegetarian onion recipe
Want a great vegetarian recipe that uses up stale old bread and leftover vegetables and an onion and tastes incredibly good (so good that I sometimes buy bread and let it go stale so I can make this)? Then click here.