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onion

Related to lily, this plant is prized around the world for the magic taste it gives to man dishes with its pungent flavor and taste. There are two main types of onion — green onions (also called scallions) and dry onions, which are just mature onions with a juicy flesh covered with dry, papery skin. Dry onions come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and flavors. Among those that are mild flavored are the white or yellow Bermuda onion, being available from March to June; the bigger one, more spherical Spanish onion, which is usually yellow skinned (but can be also white) and in season from August to May; and the red or Italian onion, which is available throughout whole year. The stronger-flavored globe onions can have yellow, red or white skins. They range from 1 to 4 inches in diameter and in flavor from mild pungent to too sharp. Among the special onion varieties there are three extremely juicy types. The Maui onion, hailing — as its name implies — from the Hawaiian island of same name, is sweet, mild and humid. It can range from white to pale yellow color and is usually shaped like a slightly flattened sphere. The Maui onion's season grows from April to July. Vidalia onions are the namesake of Vidalia, Georgia, where they grow. At their best, these large, pale yellow onions are too sweet and juicy. They're usually available from May to June only in regions where grown or by mail order. The state of Washington is the source of Walla Walla onions, named after the city of this same name. Large, round and golden, they grow from June to September but are usually available outside their growing region only by mail order. Oso Sweet onions hail from South America and, as their name suggests, are very succulent and sweet and, in fact, they contain almost 50 percent more sugar than Vidalias. They're available in specialty markets from January through March. Another import is the Rio Sweet onion, which is slightly sweet and available from October through December. Tiny pearl onions are mild-flavored and about size of a small marble. They can be cooked (and are often creamed) and served as a side dish or pickled and used as a condiment or garnish (as in the gibson cocktail). Boiling onions are about 1 inch in diameter with a sweet flavor. They're cooked as a side dish, used in stews and pickled. When you buy onions, choose those that are heavy for their size with dry, papery skins with no spots or moistness. Avoid onions of soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation for up to 2 months (depending on their condition when purchased). Humidity breeds spoilage in dry onions. Once cut, an onion should be tightly wrapped, refrigerated and used within 4 days. Most onions cause tearing (caused by sulfuric compounds) to some extent — some just watery eyes, others giant crocodile tears. Freezing the onion for 20 minutes before chopping, but then so does wearing safety goggles. Dried or freeze-dried onions as-products include onion powder (ground dehydrated onion), onion salt (onion powder and salt), onion flakes and onion flavoring cubes. Onions are also sold canned or pickled (usually pearl onions) and frozen (whole or chopped). Onions contain a fair amount of vitamin C with traces of other vitamins too and minerals. See also chive; leek; scallion; shallot.

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