Season for Onions Available Year Round, depending on the variety

Onions Described

Onion is related to the word “union” for when sliced down the middle, this single bulbed plant is a union of concentric layers of flesh, the universal metaphor for the layers and depth found in life. Sharp, spicy, stimulating and pungent or mild, tender and sweet, onions cover a broad flavor spectrum, with those grown in warmer climates called spring/summer onions being sweeter and milder and those in colder climates called storage onions packing more of a punch. You’ll find red, white and yellow onions (green onions or scallions are simply immature “dry” onions), and while we tend to seek out the less pungent onion varieties, those with a stronger flavor and higher astringency are the healthiest. Perhaps time to rethink that!

How to Buy and Store Onions

When buying onions, choose those that are heavy for their size and evenly shaped, with crisp outer skins and no signs of moisture, sprouting, dark patches or soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation for up to 2 months, depending upon how fresh they were when you brought hem home. Once cut, an onion should be tightly wrapped, refrigerated and used within 4 days, preferably quicker as it leaches nutrients as time wares on. 

How to Cook Onions

Or the better instruction might  be – how to cut onions, without weeping that is. Onions have a tendency to release a volatile gas that acts as an eye irritant, causing anywhere from a slight sting to a full on crying effect (thankfully, without the emotional connotations). Many tales are told of how to avoid this, but we’ve found your best bet is to wear goggles (which seems a little excessive) or cut your onions submerged in water or under running water. You can also freeze your onion for about a half hour before cutting them. All-in-all, it’s worth a little reaction to add the pungency of onions to any manner of dishes extraordinaire.

Onions do beautifully sliced or chopped and added to raw dishes such as salads and salsas/dips. Be sure, however, to peel off as little of the onion’s outer layers as possible before cutting, as they contain the bulk of an onion’s health benefits. When applying heat, cut onions thinly for quick and even cooking, letting them sit for at least 5 minutes to release all their yummy health benefits before adding them to the pot. Consider sauteeing onions in vegetable broth for the healthiest dish, but caramelizing in oil is very popular (particularly for French Onion Soup, or our Grass-Fed Beef Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions, Horseradish Cream & Arugula!); just be sure not to burn them and use an oil with a high smoke point. In the summer, Easy Grilled Torpedo Onions on the barbecue are delicious. 

Health Benefits of Onions

Onions are a major source of polyphenols, notably of the flavonoid quercetin that’s been shown to protect from oxidative stress and in turn some types of cancer such as in the stomach, as well as protecting against certain infections. Onions also contain a number of sulfides that may lower blood lipids and blood pressure, making them useful against cardiovascular disease. The more pungent varieties of onion appear to possess the greatest concentration of health-promoting phytonutrients, as well as those brightest in color (think in order of health promoting: red, yellow, white).

Why Buy Natural and Organic Onions

To kill bacteria, prevent sprouting and stave off spoilage, conventionally grown onions are often irradiated with nuclear energy. The effects of this have – scarily – not been studied too thoroughly but produced some odd results in rats (at low doses) including mutations. We say quite emphatically; purchase onions that have been grown organically to avoid those that have undergone this process.

image: Darwin Bell