Friday, March 30, 2012


Onions are cool-season vegetables that can be grown successfully any where. Onions may be grown from sets, transplants or seeds.  In buying sets, you need to get varieties that are appropriate to the northern climate.   I simply buy mine from my local grocery store in early spring.  High temperatures and low humidity are advantageous during bulbing and curing. Onions have shallow roots and compete poorly with weeds and grasses. Timely shallow hoeing and cultivation are important, especially when the onions are small.

Onions may be eaten raw, broiled, boiled, baked, creamed, steamed, fried, French fried and pickled. They are used in soups and stews and combination with vegetables and meats.


Onions rank as the sixth largest vegetable crop in the world and was worshipped by Egyptians of antiquity because of its unique, spherical shape and concentric rings. Egyptian artists regarded onion as one of the most important foods and attributed it powers of eternity. On Egyptian relieves and wall paintings, onions are depicted in gold, and artists awarded it an exalted status.  Researchers traced the origins of onions to Asia and domesticated uses to 3500 B C. Undoubtedly wild onions grew much earlier and were used as flavoring by imaginative cooks.

All members of the onion family offer some protection against heart disease. Research suggests that oils in onions (as well as other members of the onion family) help to lower LDL in the blood stream while increasing HDL levels. Mature, dry onions are also a good source of fiber. Only scallions and green onions contain vitamin A.

Nutrition FactsNutrition Facts
(1/2 cup fresh green onions, chopped)
Calories 13
Dietary Fiber 1.2 grams
Protein 0.9 grams
Carbohydrates 2.8 mg
Vitamin A 2,500 IU
Vitamin C 22.5 mg
Iron 0.9 mg
(1/2 cup chopped, mature onions)
Dietary Fiber2 grams
Protein1 gram
Carbohydrates 6.6 grams
Vitamin C6 mg
Vitamin B60.2 mg

Onions From Sets

Growing green onions from sets is probably the simplest method for the home gardener. The plants are quickly established and become vigorous and strong. Onion sets may be used to produce both green onions and dry onion bulbs, though production of really premium dry onions requires methods described in the following section.

Onions can be planted as soon as the garden can be tilled in the spring, usually late March or early April in prime regions for producing onions. Good fertility, adequate soil moisture, and cool temperatures aid development.

To produce green onions, plant the larger sets 1  inches deep and close enough to touch one another (green onions are harvested before crowding becomes a problem). To produce dry onions, plant the smaller sets 1 inch deep, with 2 to 4 inches between sets. Allow 12 to 18 inches between rows. If sets are 2 inches apart, harvest every other plant as green onions so that bulb development of the remaining sets is not impeded by neighboring plants.


Keep onions free from weeds by shallow cultivation and hoeing. To develop long, white stems for green onions, slightly hill the row by pulling the loose soil toward the onions with a hoe when the tops are 4 inches tall. Do not hill onions that are to be used as dry onions. Hilling may cause the necks of the stored bulb to rot.


Pull green onions anytime after the tops are 6 inches tall. Green onions become stronger in flavor with age and increasing size. They may be used for cooking when they are too strong to eat raw. Though leaves are traditionally discarded, all parts above the roots are edible.

Remove any plants that have formed flower stalks and use immediately. They do not produce good bulbs for dry storage. Harvest in late July or early August, when most of the tops have fallen over. Allow the plants to mature and the tops to fall over naturally. Breaking over the tops early interrupts growth, causing smaller bulbs that do not keep as well in storage.

Pull the mature onions in the morning and allow the bulbs to air dry in the garden until late afternoon. On especially hot, bright, sunny days, the bulb may sunburn. On days when this is likely, remove onions to a shaded location and allow them to dry thoroughly. Then, before evening dew falls, place them under dry shelter on elevated slats or screens or hang them in small bunches. Tops may be braided or tied with string before hanging. Full air circulation for 2 to 3 weeks is necessary for complete drying and curing. Keep the dry wrapper scales as intact as possible on the bulbs, as they enhance the keeping ability.

After the bulbs dry, cut the tops 1 to 2 inches long (at or above the narrow spot where the stem bent over), and place the bulb in dry storage with good air circulation. Do not try to store bulbs that are bruised, cut or diseased, or those with green tops or thick necks. Store under cool, dry conditions. Dry onions may keep until late winter, but check them regularly and use or discard those that begin to soften or rot.

They say onions are the single most important ingredient a cook can have on hand.  Because the onion family is so diverse (chives, scallions, leeks, shallots, garlic, red onions, yellow onions, and white onions), this discussion will be limited to scallions, green garden onions and mature garden onions.

Scallions and Green Onions

Scallions can be harvested any time they look tall enough to use. Gently pull or dig well below the slender white
portion when the leaves are 8 to 10 inches high. True scallions have no bulb. Select healthy bright green tops that look crisp.

Green onions or spring onions are a step above scallions although the terms are often used interchangeably. They have a 1-2 inch bulb with green tops. The smaller bulbs are sweet while the larger ones are more pungent. Left in the ground longer, the bulb will develop and become larger.  Scallions and green onions are best harvested as you use them. For longer storage, rinse soil from bulbs and dry, peeling away the first layer if necessary, trim roots, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week in perforated plastic bags.

Mature Onions

Mature garden onions are ready for harvesting when the green top withers, falls over and starts to turn brown. This usually happens in mid to late summer. Be sure to harvest before the fall rains, mature onions will rot quickly in cool, wet soil.

Lay mature onions in a single layer on newspaper in a warm, well ventilated place to cure for a few days. Leave undisturbed until the outer skin becomes papery and crispy dry. Select unbruised onions, rub off the stringy roots, and braid the tops. Hang in bunches or place in mesh bags and hang away from moisture.  I have used old nylons and tied a knot between each onion and hung on my landing to the basement.

Freezing Onions

You can freeze onions.  Peel and dice or slice.  Blanching is not required. Onions are frozen raw.  Pack: no headspace necessary.  Pack in freezer bags.

Preparation and Preservation

Why do onions make you cry? When you cut into an onion, the cell walls are damaged releasing a sulfur compound which floats into the air. This compound turns to sulfuric acid when it comes in contact with water which is why it stings your eyes. Chilling inactivates the sulfur so it does not float into the air. Thus, no tears.  They say you can also burn a candle next to you. 

To get the onion smell off your hands,  rub your hands with lemon juice or vinegar. To freshen onion breath, chew a little parsley.

There is no successful way to preserve scallions and green onions for more than a few days. However, mature onions can be dried and hung in mesh bags or braided together and stored in a cool (50 to 60 degrees) for several months.  I have used an old washed nylon panty hose and hung dried onions in them.  Make sure the onions do not touch.  Make a knot between each onion and cut off as you use them. 


Onion and Celery Seed Relish

1 cup white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp. confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
2 tbsp. celery seeds
2 cups thinly sliced small onions, no green tops
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a salad bowl, stir together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the celery seed, onions, and celery and mix well until combined. Cover and chill several hours or overnight. Serve very cold. Serve on sandwiches, as a side for any meal, or mix with your favorite lettuce salad. Makes 3 cups.

Serving Suggestions for Fresh Greens/Scallions

Take one cup chopped or sliced green onions and scallions and sauté-braise them in one tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Cook slowly until softened and slightly golden. As the onions cook the flavor mellows, yet it intensifies.

Grilled green onions -- Wash and trim 6 to 8 green onions. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over onions. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Seal foil around onions. Place on the grill, on the side away from direct heat or over low coals. Grill for 30 minutes. Serve with other grilled foods.

Chop fresh scallions and use to top beans, fresh lettuce salads, or use to perk up and add crunch to any cooked vegetable.

Mushrooms and Onions

Starts with about ten to twelve medium sized mushroom caps. Shiitake mushroom stems are a bit tough so just use the caps. One of the things I've learned in using mushrooms is that they will stay fresh and firmer longer if you'll store them in the refrigerator in a paper sack.

Melt about two tablespoons of butter in a large sauce pan. Add a couple tablespoons of chopped onions.
Add a clove or two of crushed garlic. Stir over a medium heat until the onions are transparent.
Add the mushrooms.  Rinse them and add them whole to the sauté.  Add a teaspoon of soy sauce.
Cover for about two minutes until they are wilted.  These will cook in no time so be careful not to over cook them. Shiitakes prepared this way can be the perfect complement to any meal.  Make it a medley of mushrooms, not just Shitakes.   

Fresh Guacamole

2 small, ripe avocados (preferably Haas)
1 tbsp minced red onion
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press
1/2 small jalapeno chili, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)*
2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tbsp.  juice from 1 lime

Halve 1 avocado, remove pit, and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Using fork, mash lightly with onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and 1/8 teaspoon salt until just combined.

Halve and pit remaining avocado. Using a dinner knife, carefully make 1/2-inch cross-hatch incisions in flesh, cutting down to but not through skin. Using a soupspoon, gently scoop flesh from skin; transfer to bowl with mashed avocado mixture. Sprinkle lime juice over and mix lightly with fork until combined but still chunky. Adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary, and serve. (Can be covered with plastic wrap, pressed directly onto surface of mixture, and refrigerated up to 1 day. Return guacamole to room temperature, removing plastic wrap just before serving.)  Makes about 1 1/2 cups

*If you like very hot guacamole do not take the seeds out.  If you want a mild guacamole, deseed and take out the ribs of the jalapeno.

French Onion Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 large sweet onions, peeled, sliced and separated into rings
2 (10.5 ounce) cans condensed beef broth or 6 instant bouillon cubes and 3 cups of hot water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup seasoned croutons
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or shredded Swiss cheese (I prefer fresh mozzarella)

Melt butter in olive oil in large saucepan on medium low heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown and caramelized, stirring frequently.  This will take around 20 minutes.

Add broth, 2 cups water, and Worcestershire Sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 minutes.  I love the new flavor packets now in grocery stores rather than bouillon cubes.  I use both the canned broth and add two flavor packets for twice the flavor.

Preheat broiler. Ladle soup evenly into 4 large ovenproof bowls. Top with croutons and cheese. Broil 2 to 3 min. or until cheese is melted.  Yield: 4 servings

Persian Spinach Dip with Caramelized Sweet Onion

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed (or 2 (12-ounce) boxes frozen chopped spinach)
2  diced sweet onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 pint plain yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted in a 300º oven
In a large pan, cook the spinach in the water that clings to the leaves until it wilts. Drain, rinse under cold water and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop finely and reserve.
In a medium pan, cook the onions in the butter over medium heat until well caramelized and golden brown. Cool and then mix with the spinach, yogurt, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and serve as an appetizer or as a dip for pita bread and crudités (colored pepper wedges, Belgian endive, celery lengths, cucumber boats, snow peas, sweet onions cut into single layer wedges, scooped out plum tomato wedges, and any colorful vegetable that is more or less boat shaped to hold a chunky dip).  Serves 6

Oven-Fried Onion Rings From America’s Test Kitchen

I saw this on America’s Test Kitchen program on PBS.  They claim they are suppose to be best fried onion rings.  Try it to see if you don't agree.
Dredge the onion slices in a thick batter of buttermilk blended with egg, flour, and seasonings or your choice. The thick coating seals the onion tight so that it steams and becomes tender.

After trying a wide range of options Test Kitchen settled on a blend of crushed saltines and potato chips for the crust. The combination yields a texture and flavor most resembling that of deep-fried onion rings.

Bake the battered and crumb-coated rings on liberally oiled, preheated baking sheets. Be very careful when positioning the rings on the very hot sheets.  Bake until crisp and golden.

Wrapped with Ham or Bacon

This is a variation of the ham wrapped pickle.  Spread cream cheese on ham and wrap it around the end of a scallion.  Makes a wonderful appetizer.  You can grill the scallion first if you wish.  You can always wrap anything in bacon.  Grill the scallion and wrap in bacon.

Blooming Onion and Dip

Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. cream-style horseradish sauce
1/3 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1 pinch ground black pepper
1/3 tsp. cayenne pepper

Blooming Onion:

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1 large sweet onion
3/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

To make sauce: In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, 1/3 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon oregano, a dash ground black pepper and cayenne pepper; mix well. Keep sauce covered in refrigerator until needed.

To make the batter: In a medium bowl, beat egg and add milk. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground black pepper, oregano, thyme and cumin; mix.

To slice onion: slice 1 inch off of the top and bottom of the onion and remove the papery skin. Use a thin knife to cut a 1 inch diameter core out of the middle of the onion. Now use a very sharp, large knife to slice the onion several times down the center to create 'petals': First slice through the center of the onion to about three-fourths of the way down. Turn the onion 90 degrees and slice it again in an X across the first slice. Keep slicing the sections in half, very carefully until the onion has been cut 16 times. Do not cut down to the bottom of the onion. (The last 8 slices will be difficult, be careful).

Spread the 'petals' of the onion apart. To help keep them separate you could plunge the onion into boiling water for 1 minute and then into cold water.

Dip the onion into the milk mixture and then coat it liberally with the flour mixture. Again separate the petals and sprinkle the dry coating between them. Once you're sure the onion is well-coated, dip it back into the wet mixture and into the dry coating again. This double-dipping ensures you have a well-coated onion because some of the coating will wash off when you fry the onion.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or deep pot to 350 degrees F.  Make sure you use enough oil to completely cover the onion when it fries.  Fry the onion right side up in the oil for 10 minutes or until it turns brown. When the onion has browned, remove it from the oil and let it drain on a rack or paper towels. Open the onion wider from the center so that you can put a small dish of the dipping sauce in the center.

Bacon Onion Bread

10 strips bacon
2 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
4 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 package onion soup mix
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Fry bacon until crisp - drain on paper towel and crumble. Reserve 2 tbs of fat. Mix water, yeast, and sugar in a 4 cup glass measuring cup let stand until foamy. Whisk in bacon fat and eggs. Stir in flour, onion soup mix, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Add yeast mixture and beat with electric mixer five minutes or until mixture is smooth and glossy, stir in crumbled bacon. Cover bowl and let stand 45 minutes in a warm place until batter has doubled. Beat batter briefly with a wooden spoon and divide into 3 lightly greased 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 2 1/2 loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 35 - 40 minutes or until 1 1/2 inch from top of pans. Bake 30 - 35 minutes in a 375 degree oven until just golden brown. Turn out on wire rack and cool completely. Store in air tight container.

Stores - Refrigerator 5 days - Freezer 3 Months.

VARIATIONS: -Use 2 tbsp. Olive Oil in place of bacon -substitute a vegetable soup mix for an onion mix -substitute dill for pepper.
Onion Dip

3 large white onions, julienned
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 pounds sour cream
5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 lemon, juiced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a thick bottomed pan over medium-low heat caramelize the onions with the olive oil, stirring often (sauté for a long period of time to release the natural sugars). This will take about 15 to 20 minutes so be patient. Use small amount of water to help release the sugars that will stick to the bottom of the pan. Add all other ingredients and bring up to a warm temperature*. Remove from the stove and puree with a hand blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

My FB Story

I found this article posted on FB.  It was very interesting and I shared it on my FB page.  I thought I just had to share it on my blog also.  I have no idea how much is true but I'm cutting and pasting it just as I  got it on FB.  It would be worth researching when I have time.  Take it with a grain of salt.  I’ll be trying the next time I have a virus though and will be more careful with raw onion in the future.

In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was this Doctor that visited the many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu... Many of the farmers and their families had contracted it and many died.

The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different, the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore, keeping the family healthy.

Now, I heard this story from my hairdresser. She said that several years ago, many of her employees were coming down with the flu, and so were
many of her customers. The next year she placed several bowls with onions around in her shop. To her surprise, none of her staff got sick. It must
work. Try it and see what happens. We did it last year and we never got the flu.

The author noted:  "Now there is a P. S. to this for I sent it to a friend in Oregon who regularly contributes material to me on health issues. She replied with this most interesting experience about onions:

Thanks for the reminder. I don't know about the farmer's story...but, I do know that I contacted pneumonia, and, needless to say, I was very ill... I came across an article that said to cut both ends off an onion put it into an empty jar, and place the jar next to the sick patient at night. It said the onion would be black in the morning from the germs...sure enough it happened just like that...the onion was a mess and I began to feel better".

Another thing I read in the article was that onions and garlic placed around the room saved many from the black plague years ago. They have powerful antibacterial, antiseptic properties.

This is the other note.   Lots of times when we have stomach problems we don't know what to blame. Maybe it's the onions that are to blame. Onions absorb bacteria is the reason they are so good at preventing us from getting colds and flu and is the very reason we shouldn't eat an onion
that has been sitting for a time after it has been cut open.

LEFT OVER ONIONS ARE POISONOUS - I had the wonderful privilege of touring Mullins Food Products, Makers of mayonnaise. Questions about food poisoning came up, and I wanted to share what I learned from a chemist. Ed, who was our tour guide, is a food chemistry whiz. During the tour, someone asked if we really needed to worry about mayonnaise. People are always worried that mayonnaise will spoil. Ed's answer will surprise you. Ed said that all commercially-made mayo is completely safe.  "It doesn't even have to be refrigerated. There is no harm in refrigerating it, but it's not really necessary."  He explained that the pH in mayonnaise is set at a point that bacteria could not survive in that environment. He then talked about the summer picnic, with the bowl of potato salad sitting on the table, and how everyone blames the mayonnaise when someone gets sick.

Ed says that, when food poisoning is reported, the first thing the officials look for is when the 'victim' last ate ONIONS and where those onions came from (in the potato salad?). Ed says it's not the mayonnaise (as long as it's not homemade mayo) that spoils in the outdoors. It's probably the onions, and if not the onions, it's the potatoes.   He explained onions are a huge magnet for bacteria, especially uncooked onions. You should never plan to keep a portion of a sliced onion. He says it's not even safe if you put it in a zip-lock bag and put it in your refrigerator.   It's already contaminated enough just by being cut open and out for a bit, that it can be a danger to you (and doubly watch out for those onions you put in your hotdogs at the baseball park!).   Ed says if you take the leftover onion and cook it like crazy you'll probably be okay, but if you slice that leftover onion and put in your sandwich, you're asking for trouble. Both the onions and the moist potato in a potato salad will attract and grow bacteria faster than any commercial mayonnaise will even begin to break down.

Also, dogs should never eat onions. Their stomachs cannot metabolize onions.  Please remember it is dangerous to cut an onion and try to use it to cook the next day, it becomes highly poisonous for even a single night and creates toxic bacteria which may cause adverse stomach infections because of excess bile secretions and even food poisoning.

Article was a real eye opener.  I'm not a lover of raw onion so I stay away from them.  I cook with them and use onion powder often.  I'll be careful not to save unused onion in the future. 

Come cry with me tomorrow, I'll have more onion recipes.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

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