A couple weeks ago I planted three different kinds of tiny, onion bulbs (also called sets) in our garden. I may or may not have gotten carried away. Serge might have done a triple take when he saw how many onions I planted. My friend Shawna may have tried to hide her giggles when she saw the enormity of my onion patch. But, well. We eat a lot of onions. We use yellow and green onions on a daily basis in different stir fries we cook. We use the red onions for salsas and taco nights. Also, I was doubtful about my ability to grow things so I might have been hedging my onion bets. But I needn't have worried. This week my onions are popping up all over the place.
The tops of all onions look like green onions, which ignited my onion confusion; are the tops of all onion plants considered green onions? Is that where green onions come from or are they their own thing? And what's the difference between green onions and scallions? And chives? Where do they fit in? And what's all this about a spring onion?
Green onions are their own thing. They're the same thing as scallions (and are sometimes called spring onions.) They are a pungent onion you can use raw or cooked to add a delicious zing to just about any meal. Ever sautee some mushrooms and green onions in butter? Excellent side dish. They go in almost any stir fry, on grilled fish, in soups and salads or, if you're really into onions, they are even delicious grilled in olive oil on their own.
The green tops of the red, white and yellow onions I planted that you see in the photo above will grow larger and larger and even begin to fall over and then I'll know it's time to harvest the onions, pulling them up to see how big the bulbs have grown. The green tops are kind of like scallions or green onions - except more mature - and can be used in place of scallions or chives if you want, but they aren't exactly the same thing. I could chop them into a tuna salad for sandwiches, could use in an omelet or on a baked potato in place of chives, whatever strikes my fancy.
Chives are herbs and typically have a more mild flavor than green onions and you'd use them when you want an oniony flavor but don't want big chunks in your dish; like in a dip or as a garnish over a meal. However, if you don't have chives on hand you can dice the very greenest part of a green onion as a substitute, but use less because the green onion is more pungent than chives.
You can grow red, white and yellow onions from seeds or bulbs, like I did but there is a really great trick to growing green onions over and over again. Just buy a bunch of green onions from the produce section of your grocery store and snip off the white part, like so:
I cut right where the green starts to fade into the white. Now, put the green onions in a bag and throw those back in your fridge (best used in one week) and put the white bottoms in a cup of water:
Give it a couple days and you'll start to see tiny green shoots of onion re-growing out of the bulb. Look! I done growed something!
Now, just like I'm about to do, head out to the nearest patch of dirt and plant those suckers and you'll have a fresh crop of green onions in no time! Do it over and over again with each new batch and you'll have an endless supply of fresh, green onions for all these delicious recipes. For fun you can also keep a batch in your window sill just because it's nice to have stuff growing all around you.
As a further FYI to complete your onion lesson for today, here is the difference between yellow, white and red onions:
Yellow: This is the all-purpose onion and the one I use the most. It's what I planted the most of in my garden, drafted Tiger to guard the whole thing and she's (He? I don't know! She/he doesn't want her business inspected and I wouldn't know what to look for if she/he did. Cats are weird eunuchs.) taking shit very seriously.
No tuch ma unyunz.
Yellow onions are, in my humble opinion, the most evenly flavored of all the onions. I like to cook mine until they're nice and sweet. I also like how they have nice, meaty insides. Note: spanish onions are a type of yellow onion and are typically sweeter than regular yellow onions.
White onions are sharper flavored than yellow onions. Their skin is more papery and the actual onion is more tender than the meatier yellow onion. I use these minced in salsas or finely dice them for toppings on soups and baked potatoes.
Red onions are the most astringent of the mix, in my opinion. I eat these at night and I taste them in the morning. I use these guys sparingly, buying one a week, and putting them raw in salsas or salads.
Sweet onions are the Vidalias or Walla Wallas. They're the best on sandwiches and other foods you want a raw onion because they're not pungent at all. Serge makes killer onion rings out of these guys.
Although technically an onion shallots are kind of a cross between an onion and garlic. If you don't want to use a pungent onion use a shallot, it's more delicate and has a tinge of garlic to it.
I buy one shallot a week and use it to punch up or brighten any meal. They're often sold next to the garlic in grocery stores. You can use a sweet onion like a Vidalia and a pinch of garlic to get a flavor similar to that of a shallot, if you don't have any on hand.
Onions are complex and intense, right? They are, like, the Daniel Day-Lewis of the vegetable world. Did you know his full name is Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis and he has both British and Irish citizenship. If that's not green onion/scallion-y I don't know what is.
There will be a test on onions Monday. Any questions? What's your favorite onion? What's your favorite onion recipe? Class dismissed.