Selecting Onions

There are many different types of onions. You'll want to select the best onion type for your cooking recipes.

Dry onions are any common onion (yellow, white, or red) that does not require refrigeration. This distinguishes them from green onions, which will perish quickly when stored at room temperature.

Dry onions come in various shapes and colors, none of which is a reliable indicator of taste or strength. The white, or yellow globe, onion keeps its pungent flavor when cooked. All-purpose white or yellow onions are milder. Sweet onions, such as Bermuda, Spanish, and Italian, are the mildest.

Choose firm dry onions with shiny, tissue-thin skins. "Necks" should be tight and dry. If they look too dry or discolored or have soft, wet spots, they aren't fresh.

Dry onions keep three to four weeks if stored in a dry, dark, cool location. Don't store them next to potatoes, which give off a gas that'll cause onions to decay. Light turns onions bitter. A cut onion should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated, and used within a day or two.

Green onions, also called "spring" onions because that's the time of the year when they are harvested, have small white bulbs and are topped by thin green stalks. Though they are often sold as scallions, true scallions are just straight green stalks with no bulb. Look for green onions with crisp, not wilted, tops. For pungent taste, choose fatter bulbs; for a sweeter taste, smaller bulbs are your best bet. Green onions must be refrigerated. They keep best in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Try chilling onions before slicing to avoid the tear-inducing fumes.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Onions

To keep tears from flowing, try slicing onions under running water. Or chill onions for an hour before cutting. To get the onion smell off your hands, rub your fingers with lemon juice or vinegar.

Onions are the perfect seasoning for almost any cooked dish. Their flavor mellows when they are cooked because smelly sulfur compounds are converted to sugar when heated. Onions saute wonderfully, even without butter. Use a nonstick skillet and perhaps a teaspoon of olive oil. Keep heat low or they'll scorch and turn bitter.

Sweet onions are ideal raw, as rings in salads or as slices atop sandwiches. They add bite to a three-bean salad or a plate of homegrown tomatoes. Wash green onions, trimming roots and dry leaves. Chop up bulb, stalk, and all. They work well in stir-fry dishes, adding an understated bite. Green onions can also be served raw with low-fat dip as part of a crudite platter.

Whether it's a shallot, a scallion, or a regular yellow onion, be sure to have onions on hand to jazz up any healthy salad, stir-fry, or vegetarian casserole recipe. This way, you'll never be bored with healthy eating.

In the next section, we'll talk about the health benefits of onions.

Want even more information about onions? Try these links: