As my husband and I were leaving the food section of Costco the
other day, he noticed a mesh bag of Vidalia onions. T
As my husband and I were leaving the food section of Costco the other day, he noticed a mesh bag of Vidalia onions. The onions were in our cart before I knew it. Having lived one state south of Georgia, home of the Vidalia onion, my husband waxes nostalgic biting into a juicy Vidalia onion as if it were an apple.
Most of us think of onions mainly as a seasoning or maybe as deep-fried rings. Thinking of the stinging, watering eyes we’ve experienced while chopping onions, we wince at the notion of biting into a whole one.
Onions of all kinds have been around for millennia. According to one source, the ancient Egyptians not only used them as currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids, onions were also entombed with the remains of royalty so the nobles would not have to go without in the afterlife.
Onions, like garlic, are members of the Allium family, and both are rich in powerful sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent odors. Onions contain allyl propyl disulphide, which is thought to help reduce blood sugar and possibly strengthen the heart. In addition, onions are very rich in chromium, a trace mineral that helps cells respond to insulin, plus vitamin C, and numerous flavonoids.
There are two main types of large globe onions, besides scallions, shallots and pearl onions – spring or sweet onions and storage onions. Vidalia onions, and their competitors for the “Sweetest and Best Onion” title, the Walla Walla, the Texas 1015 and the Maui, are spring onions. They are not dried to the same degree as the storage onions and are best when consumed while still fresh.
Sweet onions apparently originated in Bermuda, and after being imported into Texas, they were hybridized into all the different varieties of sweet onions that exist wherever they are found today. At least, this is the history according to the Texas Aggie Web site.
On the other hand, the folks who grow Vidalia onions tell a different story, that of Moses Coleman, who, early in the Depression, discovered that the onions he had planted were sweet rather than hot. He was able to get a premium price for them. Other Vidalia farmers followed suit and, with the town of Vidalia at a junction of major routes through Georgia, the onions’ fame spread.
If you are not quite ready to try eating a Vidalia or other sweet onion like you would an apple, here are some recipes that highlight their sweet pungent taste.
Elizabeth Gage is a writer who lives in Hollister. She can be reached at [email protected]
Vidalia Onion Pie
from “The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook” by Paula Deen
3 cups thinly sliced Vidalia onion
3 tablespoons butter, melted
One 9-inch prebaked deep-dish pie shell
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Step 2: Saute onion in butter until lightly browned. Spoon into pie shell.
Step 3: Combine milk, sour cream, salt, eggs and flour. Mix well, and pour over onions in pie shell.
Step 4: Garnish with bacon
Step 5: Bake for 30 minutes or until firm in center. May be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled.
from Morris Farms’ Web site, www.sweetonion.com
The Muffuletta is a New Orleans-style sandwich, essentially a baguette stuffed with deli meats and cheese, and flavored with a relish like this. The relish is also good with fish.
1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 cup drained small Spanish pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp. dried
Step 1: Chop onion, olives, basil and oregano (if using fresh).
Step 2: Mix with olive oil, vinegar and capers in a glass or ceramic bowl.
Step 3: Allow to sit at room temperature one hour before serving.
Another exception to the Texas claim of being the source of all sweet onions comes from a Web site promoting the Walla Walla onion, www.sweetonionsource.com. The Walla Walla, it says, “originated in Italy, then was transplanted to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where a French soldier, Peter Pieri, enamored of the onion’s sweet taste and juicy flesh, carried some of the seeds with him to the Walla Walla Valley in the late 1800s. Pieri’s fellow immigrants soon began raising the onions too, and established the Walla Walla Gardener’s Association (a cooperative of local onion growers) in 1916.”
Here are a couple of recipes from their Web site.
Sweet Onion and Fruit Salsa
about 3 cups
41/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cups diced (1/4 inch) pineapple, kiwi or papaya
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as canola
Tortilla chips, as needed
Gently fold together onion, fruit, vinegar, salt, and pepper flakes, then oil. Chill several hours to marry flavors. Accompany with tortilla chips.