We won't make you cry!
The onion is arguably the most used vegetable and most common ingredient found in different cuisines around the world. Not only does it add delicious flavour to various dishes, it also adds a succulent aroma to healthy dinner recipes. From salads to stews and soups, it is at the top of my list of favourite ingredients to work with in the kitchen.
Onions can be served when included in a vegetable or savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw. They are also ideal for pickling or in chutneys.
The onion is part of a larger group of cultivated species known as genus Allium which also includes garlic, shallot, leek and chives. When cooking, you can substitute the onion with other vegetables from the above mentioned family and still retain a similar flavour.
The onion, on the surface, seems to be a humble brown, white or red, thin skinned bulb. Despite its plain appearance, it has an intense flavour and is a beloved part of any cuisine of almost every region in the world.
There are generally two types of large, globe-shaped onions -the spring/summer onion and the storage onion. The former types have a mild or sweet taste, which can be attributed to them growing in warm weather regions.
Storage onions are grown in cold weather areas. After harvesting, they are dried out for a period of several months, which allows them to attain a dry, crisp skin. They generally have a more pungent flavour and are usually named by their colour: white, yellow or red.
When choosing your onions, keep the following in mind: they should be clean, well-shaped, have no opening at the neck, and feature a crisp and dry outer skin. Avoid those that are sprouting or have signs of mould.
When buying green scallions as well as salad onions, look for fresh looking green tops that appear crisp. Two to three inches from the base should be whitish in colour.
- Onions should be stored in a well-ventilated area at room temperature, away from heat and bright light. With the exception of green onions, do not refrigerate.
- Place them in a wire hanging basket or a perforated bowl with a raised base. This will allow air to circulate from the underneath.
- The length of storage varies with the type of onion. Those that are more pungent in flavour, such as the yellow onions, should keep for about a month if stored properly. White onions, on the other hand, will not keep as long due to the compounds that confer their sharp taste.
- Scallions should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about one week.
- All onions should be stored away from potatoes, as they will absorb their moisture and ethylene gas, causing them to spoil faster.
- Store cut onions by placing in a sealed container. Use them within a day or two since they tend to oxidize and lose their nutrient content rather quickly. Cooked onions will best maintain their taste in an airtight container where they can be kept for a few days. They should never be placed in a metal storage container as this may cause them to discolour.
- Although peeled and chopped onions can be frozen (without first being blanched), this process will cause them to lose some of their flavour.