Onions, like garlic and chives, belong to the lily family. It is not known when or where onions were first cultivated, only that they have been used for food and for medicinefor thousands of years. There are over 3000 varieties of onions that vary in size, shape, taste, and smell. The red and white varieties of the bulb onion tend to be sweeter and milder, while the tanned skinned storage onion is the most pungent. Red, white and yellow onions are available in the Northeast from late summer through the fall and winter.
Storage: Bulb onions will store for several months in a cool, dry, ventilated place. Warmth and moisture will cause sprouting. Store cut onions tightly wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator to avoid transference of flavors to other foods. Don’t store onions near potatoes, as they cause spoilage.
Preparation: Cut the top and the bottom of the onion, using a sharp knife and cutting board. Carefully remove the outer paper-like skin. Slice or chop as desired.
To reduce the fumes that cause your eyes to burn, chill the onions in the refrigerator or cut them under running water. Pam Cox from the Roxbury CSA suggests “whistling while you work.” But here is a better suggestion from Cook’s Illustrated—light a candle nearby the chopping block—the flame oxidizes the sulfur compounds, changing their composition so that they no longer cause crying. Onions are extremely versatile and almost any cooking method is appropriate - steaming, boiling, sautéing, stir-frying, braising, baking, grilling, roasting and more! The longer onions cook (over a low flame), the sweeter they become. To caramelize onions cook in a pan on low heat with butter stirring often until onions are browned.
Tips: Combine chopped onions, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeno for an all-in-one guacamole salsa dip. Sautéed chopped onions are so versatile that they can be added to most any vegetable dish. Enjoy a classic Italian salad-sliced onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil.