Beyond colour, do you know the difference between a white onion and a yellow onion? Is a spring onion really an onion, or something else entirely? The key question here is; how well do you really know your onions?
Let’s begin with a basic fact - allium is the onion genus. It includes garlic, leeks and chives – in fact, there are between over 600 species, making it one of the largest plant genera in the world.

For many people, onions come with a breadth of health benefits – from improving heart and lung health, to bolstering the immune system. Onions are pretty amazing.

On the reverse, many people find onions difficult to digest - often associated with various IBS symptoms. Anybody following a FODMAP diet will know the pain of both eating and avoiding onions.

If onions are up your street however, this is the read for you. They are the foundation of thousands of dishes across the globe. With that in mind, we’ve studied popular allium varieties, so you can really know your onions. Then pairing the various varieties with delicious recipes from around the world, for your cooking pleasure.

Yellow Onions

You’re bound to know this one, it’s the kitchen staple. It’s versatile, and when you see ‘onion’ in a recipe, this would be your go-to. A white core, surrounded by thick, brown skin – you know the ones.

Unsurprisingly, it’s perfect for a traditional French onion soup. Here’s a top recipe for just that, directly from BBC Good Food.

french

 

White Onions

You’ll recognise these onions by their delicate and papery white skin. They’re milder and also sweeter than yellow onions – making them great for serving raw in fresh salsa or guacamole. Here’s a recipe you’ll love, Mexico’s mighty guacamole, the king of the dips.

guac2
 

Red Onions

Mild, and great raw, they’ll add a subtle allium hit to sandwiches and salads. It is possible to cook them, but it’s generally recommended you consume them raw. Always slice very thinly, so avoid overpowering the other flavours in the mix. Here’s a wonderful Italian Panzanella (arguably one of the world’s finest salads) recipe, courtesy of Jamie Oliver.

As an added bonus, this is a food waste warrior’s delight, using up any stale bread that you have hiding in the kitchen. Check it out here

panzanella

 

Sweet Onions

Delicately sweet, these onions are super subtle – they won’t overpower the ingredients you’re cooking them with. They’re also great for eating raw, picture a sweet onion, thinly sliced a top of a delicious beef or mushroom burger. These onions are also perfect for stuffing and baking, due to their size and flavour. Here’s a recipe that you’ll love, they’re the tastiest appetisers in town - Lebanese roasted stuffed onions, care of Steamy Kitchen.

stuffed

Spring Onions

Meet the most immature of the onions. They’ve having not yet formed their bulb, or if they have, at least only partially. The whole plant is usually eaten, including the tall green shoots. They make a great garnish for soups, omelettes, tacos - adding flavour, plus a hit of vibrant colour and crunchy texture.There’s more to spring onions than simply garnish though. They can stand their ground all alone. Here’s a recipe, from Epicurious, for butter-braised spring onions with chives, to prove the point.

spring onions


TEARY-EYED SURPRISE

As much as we love cooking with onions, we've got to admit it, we hate preparing them! If you've ever found yourself cursing your onions - you're not alone! But why do they make us sob? (We hear you, er....cry?!)  Well, it's all because of some pretty brutal enzymes that are released when you cut into an onion. Cells release enzymes which turn into volatile gases and consequently cause a chemical reaction that creates that unforgettable eye sting.

onion

Before deciding to avoid the alliums, here are our top 3 ways which may (or may not*) stop the tears:


1) Wet the knife (and/or) the onion
It may be an old wives tale, but apparently the enzymes in onions react with the first wet surface they come into contact with (hello, eyeballs!) So by wetting the knife, or onion, this may reduce (or optimistically - remove) the sting-factor!

2) Freeze the onion
Freezing onions can slow down the release of enzymes, and stop the tears. We haven't tried it, but we like the sound of it!

3) Use a sharp knife
It may be time to upgrade your knife collection to that Japanese knife you've always wanted. Apparently a sharper knife means less enzymes are released into the air. We're going to use that as an excuse to upgrade our kitchen stash!

We hope you enjoyed this onion lowdown, if you have any other tips, let us know on social.