By Cary Neff, Experience Life
There are hundreds of varieties of onions whose flavor and strength depend on the type of soil and time of year in which they grow. In general, the thicker the layers of onion, the stronger the flavor. Onions are separated into two main categories: fresh onions and storage (or “dry”) onions.
Fresh onions arrive in spring and summer, and you should store them in the refrigerator and eat them soon after harvesting. Examples include green onions (or scallions), and “sweet onions,” like Maui, Vidalia and Walla Walla. When selecting green onions, look for those that appear crisp yet tender and have green, fresh-looking tops. Sweet onions should be firm and heavy with water.
Storage onions are harvested in fall and winter, have a stronger flavor, store longer, and should be kept in a cool, dry place (but not refrigerated). Common examples are yellow, white and red onions. Shallots are a clustering variety of storage onion that are mild and sweet. When purchasing, choose storage onions that are clean, well shaped and tightly closed, with crisp, dry outer skins. Avoid onions that are sprouting or have signs of mold or soft spots.
Studies have suggested that onions, which are rich in phytochemicals and the antioxidant flavonoid quercetin, may help lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and many types of cancer, particularly colon cancer. Onions also have powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-parasitic properties. One cup of raw onion contains more than 20 percent of the daily requirement of the trace mineral chromium, important for helping the body to metabolize sugar and lipids. When cooked, onions have a slightly lower vitamin content, but the resulting chemical reactions increase the variety of beneficial sulfur compounds.
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