Also known as ‘mature onions’, they belong to the lily family of plants. This vegetable is grown for its edible bulb, most often performing a supportive role to flavour a variety of other foods.
The yellow onion is considered an all-purpose cooking variety. Its papery outside skin is golden brown, while the flesh inside graduates from yellow to white as you peel away the layers.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Onions are available all year long.
Should be firm, small-necked onions with dry, loose, papery golden brown outer skins. Avoid gray or black mould and should not have any visible sprouting. Remember, the dryer and harder the onion, the longer it will keep.
Always handle onions with care. Do not drop onions as this often causes bruising and decay. Store uncovered onions in a cool, dry, dark ventilated area -not in the refrigerator – for up to two months or at room temperature for up to three weeks. Lack of air movement reduces storage life, so do not wrap onions in plastic, or store in plastic bags.
Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days
Prepare onions as close to cooking or serving time as possible. An onion’s flavor diminishes and its aroma intensifies over time. Please read additional tips in ‘Of Interest’ section below. Peel. Discard outer brittle leaves. When preparing onions, slice or chop by starting at the end opposite the root. Onions contain gases that cause our eyes to tear, and since more gases reside in the root end, chop or slice it last. Again, it is generally considered best to slice onions with the grain, often referred to pole-to-pole or in the direction of end-to-end:
- Begin by slicing off both ends, making them flat. Set the onion down resting on the flat spot of either end, and vertically cut the onion in half from top to bottom. Place one of the halves down on the flat side of the most recent cut, which is the center of the onion.
- The result of cutting onions with the grain is a more pleasing presentation when braised, cooked, or left fresh. In addition, slices are cut with the grain will hold up better during lengthy cooking such as with meat roasts.
- Hint: To keep the inner layers in place during the cooking process, slice off both ends and make an X-shaped cut in the bottom about 1/4″ deep.
When cut across the grain the slices will lose their shape and decrease in size. Best used for toppings and small pieces to be added to other foods.
Leave whole, cut into quarters, slice or chop.
Onions add some extra flavour and aroma to your meal – a staple in everyone’s kitchen. The storage onion is at its best when cooked, creating a sharper, more flavourful taste than sweet onions.
Either variety are usually used as a base for other ingredients. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French Onion Soup its tangy sweet flavour. White onions are traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, providing a golden colour and sweet flavour when sautéed.
In general, the smallest onions are good when braised whole in butter and white wine or added to casseroles. The little baby, button, or pearl onions, (like miniature yellow onions except for their white skins), are frequently used for pickling.
Cooking Tips: To lower the fat content, onions can be heated in broth or wine instead of butter or oil. As a word of caution, high heat makes onions bitter.
Use whole unpeeled onions. Trim off the root ends so the onions will sit securely in the baking pan and prick them with a fork. Place them in a shallow pan lightly sprayed with nonstick oil or wrap them in foil. Bake in a 350°F to 375°F oven for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size and variety. Test for doneness by pressing-they should give without feeling mushy. Storage onions will take longer to cook than sweet onions. Try adding to the bottom of the pan when roasting chicken to add flavor. Another tasty idea is to bake them stuffed.
A great method for cooking whole or half onions, but it works for sliced onions, too. Boil for 10, but up to 30 minutes if larger and dense.
A good way to enjoy small pearl or boiling onions. Add to a covered pan filled with 1/2″ of water or broth. Simmer, about 25 minutes, over low heat to allow the onions to absorb the liquid and become tender. Add more liquid if necessary.
Use a pound of small to medium onions, peeled and quartered. Place them in a microwavable dish with 2 tablespoons of water or stock and cook on high for 7 to 8 minutes.
Sautéing onion softens their texture and enriches their taste. To ensure that the onions do not brown too quickly, reduce the heat and add a couple more tablespoons of liquid – olive oil, broth, or wine. Maintaining a low to medium heat and stir constantly, cook for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the chopped or sliced pieces. A welcomed option is to add garlic half way through the process and sauté both until translucent or caramelized, golden and sweet.
Onions not only provide flavour — they also provide health-promoting phytochemicals as well as nutrients. Research shows that onions may help guard against many chronic diseases, especially white and red, due to their generous amounts of a flavonoid called quercetin. Studies have shown that quercetin protects against cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In addition, onions contain a variety of natural chemicals, organosulfur compounds, that have been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Onions (raw, chopped), 1 cup (100g)
Total Fat: 0.25g
*Good source of: Vitamin C (10mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.
To firm up muscles, the historic Roman gladiators were issued onion juice as a rub.
- The onion and its cousins – garlic, shallots, leeks, chives – are among the world’s oldest cultivated plants and have a colourful history. With some exceptions – most notably the ancient Egyptians-onions were considered a coarse and inferior food by the upper classes. As a result, onions became a reliable staple for the poor for centuries. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the lowly onion’s reputation began to improve.
- Onions make you cry because of the reaction of enzymes to the air as you slice or chop them. Here are a few tips that may prevent the tears:
- Peel onions under running water, then freeze them for 20 minutes before chopping. The enzymes in onions do not react to the air as quickly when they are cold.
- Refrigerate onions 30 minutes before preparation.
- Run cold water over the onion while slicing.
- Use a sharp knife, lessening the amount of enzymes exposed to air.
- Remove the fumes with a fan: position your cutting board under your stove’s exhaust fan, or set up a small portable fan.
- Julia Child, the famous chef, tried several methods and found that wearing swimming goggles was the most effective. You can purchase an inexpensive pair of plastic goggles from the hardware store. Contact lenses also work well.
- Try burning a candle near the cutting board.
- To remove onion odour from your hands or breath, try:
- Sprinkling salt on your palms and then rubbing them together under running water.
- Rub hands and stainless steel equipment with lemon juice or salt.
- Wash your hands and, while still wet, rub them on stainless steel, such as a cooking pot or steel sink.
- To rid yourself of onion breath, try eating an apple or chewing on fresh parsley, citrus peel, or roasted coffee beans.
- Onions are categorized as being either green or dry onions. Both yellow & white are dry onions are harvested when their shoot dies.