The onion belongs the Allium group of bulbing plants, which includes leeks, garlic, eshalots, chives and spring onions. They come in numerous types, shapes, colours and tastes with many cultivated forms existing all around the world. There are sweet white onions, spicy red or Italian onions, small onions for pickles, green, brown and yellow ones, round, flat or torpedo in shape. You should try them all!
The bulb forms where the lower leaf sheaths swell so as to store carbohydrates heading into the autumn and winter, to then have energy to flower the following spring. When growing onions, the leaves die down in the spring or early summer, and this is when they are 'ripe' for the harvest. In many regions, bulk loads are stored in cool dry sheds, and can be kept for many months.
No matter which cookbook you open or recipe you're following in most cuisines, onions are the quintessential ingredient used to enhance the flavour
How to prepare
Peel and chop is usually how it starts.
It's best to remove the root crown, trim also at the opposite end, peel off a few of the dried layers and prepare as necessary. Best to remember that the larger the pieces, the long they'll take to cook.
- Sautéed: 2 - 4 minutes
- Baked : 10 - 15 minutes
- Grilled: 5 - 10 minutes
- Stir Fried: 3 - 5 minutes
Buyer's and storage guide
Onions are often found loose in nearly all market places, but also may be bagged into 1kg, 5kg up to 20kg units. Different types often have different uses - browns, whites and yellows are often for cooking whereas reds more so for raw use, but there is no strict guideline.
Look for clean, damage free bulbs that shouldn't have any green shoots appearing from the top. Preferably store onions in a cool, dark place, not too humid. It's best to keep any cut unused portions in an airtight container in the refrigerator as the onion smell can easily penetrate other items.
- Grilled in a pan with butter and garlic as the base for many dishes
- Sliced thinly and added raw to salads - pairs well with tomatoes, mushrooms and fish
- Create any number of soups, sauces and stews whether as the main ingredient or for the flavour
- Stir-fried with many other vegetables for a quick tasty dinner
- Baked whole to enjoy alongside the sunday roast