Onions are almost definitely the most widely used vegetable in the culinary world. Being the fourth most consumed fresh vegetable in the US, behind potatoes, tomatoes and sweet corn, it should be a surprise that they produced over 3600 tonnes in 2018.
Sweet onions are a species of onion known for their milder and sweeter taste than the conventional onion. This is due to its high water but low sulfur content. Many breeds originated in the united states in the 20th century. Like the Vidalia onion from Vidalia, Georgia. Bred in 1890 by Warren T. Jenkins
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: asparagales
- Family: Amaryllidaceae
- Subfamily: Alliodeae
- Genus: allium
- Species: A. Cepa
- Binomial name: Allium Cepa
Sweet Onion Trivia
- The 1015 sweet onion is the official state vegetable of texas since 1997.
- Sweet Texas 1015 onions have warm and sweet aromatics, due to the presence of the compound eugenol, and are known for their trademark sweetness and succulent, tender texture
- Onions were so important in the Middle Ages, that people would pay their rent with them and give them as gifts. They were even used as part of Egyptian burials.
Sweet Onion Buying Guide
When buying onions look for firm bulbs with glossy and paper thing outer skin. Necks should be tight and dry, but not too dry. Avoid discolorment, wet patches, and any soft spots
Sweet Onion Production & Farming in Texas
The official state onion of Texas, adopted in 1997, is the 1015 sweet onion. Named after the ideal time to plant the seed, October 15th. The breed was founded by Leonard Pike in the early 80s at Texas A&M University. Development of the vegetable took 10 years of study, endless testing, and a whopping million dollars, giving it its well-fitted nickname – ‘the million-dollar baby’.
Soil pests that can affect onions are white grubs and wireworms, and occasionally onion maggots and cutworms cause damage.
Pesticides are not a big issue concerning onions. Testing on onions showed that out of all the onions tested, only 10% showed traces of residue. Making them mostly safe from any form of pesticidal poisoning.
The concern is apparent in the difference in flavonoid levels. Flavonoids are a group of plant metabolites that support heart health in people. Organically grown onions showed a 20% increase in flavanoids, due to the fact that they have to produce their own pesticidal compounds.
California, Idaho-Eastern Oregon, and Washington are the three top onion production states. Texas comes in sixth in the list dedicating approximately 16,000 acres to the production of onions. Most being sweet or/and yellow varieties. The majority of these onions are grown in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.
All commercially produced onions are cured straight after harvesting. Fresh out of the ground onions have a thin outer skin full of sugary juices. The curing helps create that papery wrapper and helps lock out moisture.
After the curing process onions are packed into a form of mesh. This mesh can be made from all sorts of materials. Usually plastic. The bags come in different sizes for different consumers. For domestic use, bags come in 0.5, 1, 2, or 5 kg. Bulk sizes include 10, 20, 25, or 50kg. For restaurants and larger commercial use, 100-350kg bags are available too.
Enjoying Sweet Onions
Onions are essential ingredients in a kitchen. They not just ingredients to a dish, however. Onions belong in a group of foods called aromatics. Aromatics are any food products, be it spices, vegetables and sometimes meat, that are cooked in an oil base to add flavor, foods like garlic, chili, carrots, celery and much more. The “holy trinity’ of aromatic vegetables are is a french combination mirepoix. A combination of onions, celery and bell peppers. The ratio often goes 2:1:1 of onions, celery, and carrots. A higher sugar and water content in sweet onions make for less syn-propanethial-S-oxide, the enzyme that makes you cry when exposed to air.
If stored correctly, sweet onions last about 3-4 weeks. Onions should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place. Unless peeled they should not be kept in the fridge. Placing whole onions in the fridge exposes them to cold, humid conditions which cause them to absorb moisture making them soft and mushy. Ideally, whole onions should be stored between 40F-50F.
Peeled and sliced onions should be stored in the fridge. In a zip lock bag, they will stay fresh 10-14 days.
There are ways to optimize how onions affect every dish you make. Here are some of the main cooking methods and what they should be used for:
Grilling: Brings out a charred, sweet flavor of the onion. Gives a tender & subtle texture good for burgers, kebabs, and hot dogs.
Sautéed: Involves cooking onion in a small amount of oil over high heat to break down sugars and at the same time leaves some savory flavor. Good for burgers, pizza, and pasta.
Caramelized: Thus involves cooking onions with brown sugar on low heat to further break down any natural sugars. This makes for a very sweet dish. Good for onion tartlets, frittata, and risotto.
Deep-Fried: Involves totally submerging either sliced onions or whole onions. See onions rings or blooming onion.
Roasted: When roasted onions become soft and smooth with subtle, sweet and mellow flavors. Great with sausage & mash, steak, and roast dinners.
Roasted whole: Roasting onion skin-on brings out a rich, brown, creamy sweetness. It gives a smooth, self-spreadable texture good for tacos, enchiladas, and sandwiches.
Sweated: This method gently cooks onions exposing a sweet, fruity flavor.
Boiled: Softens and tenderizes the onion bringing out a delicate sweetness perfect for soups, boeuf bourguignon, and coq au vin.
Pickled: In vinegar bring out tangy, zesty and fresh flavors, good with pies, fish & chips, and Ploughman’s lunch.
Not only do onions taste great. They have a lot of benefits in terms of health. Benefits like:
Blood sugar regulation: A study shows that people with type 2 diabetes that ate 3.5 ounces(100g) of raw onion every day led to a significant reduction in blood sugar levels.
Bone health: Osteoporosis is a common health problem, especially in postmenopausal women. A healthy diet is one of the main preventive measures. A large observational study in women over 50 years of age found that regular onion consumption is linked to increased bone density.
Reduced risk of cancer: Studies linked to increased consumption of onions found a reduced risk to several types of cancers. Including stomach cancer, breast cancer, colon, and prostate cancer.