Cooking School

Spanish onions: Eat the old, plant the new

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Spanish onions: Eat the old, plant the new

Onions are an essential, tasty part of our cuisine. They're members of the large Allium genus, which also includes garlic, leeks and chives, as well as the many ornamental alliums in perennial gardens.

There are three edible groups. The familiar bulb onion (A. cepa) is in the Cepa Group. Picked young, when it has a small, white bulb and green tops, it's known as a scallion, or a green or spring onion. Left to mature, it's used in cooking or salads. Shallots produce multiple bulbs from a single planted bulb and belong to the Aggregatum Group. Welsh, or bunching, onions belong to a different species altogether -- A. fistulosum.

Bulb onions can be grown from seed or sets, which are small bulbs harvested the previous summer and stored over the winter. Although sets are easy to plant and give a quick start, the resulting onions are more prone to disease and bolting, and don't store as well as those grown from seed. Also, there's a wider selection of varieties available from seed.

In Canada, Spanish-type onions should be started indoors in February; any later and the bulbs will be small and too strong-tasting. Onions you plan to store over the winter can be seeded directly outside at the same time as peas, but in most parts of Canada, a better crop will result from starting seeds indoors at the beginning of April.

Unfortunately, Canadians can't grow very mild, sweet Spanish onions, such as the popular 'Vidalia', but 'Walla Walla', 'Super Star', 'Ailsa Craig', 'Riverside Sweet Spanish' and ‘Candy' are mild, sweet varieties that grow well here. Red-skinned ‘Red Burgermaster' has red-and-white flesh. None of the Spanish onions are suitable for long-term storage. (They'll keep for about one month; cooking onions will keep for four to seven months under ideal conditions.)

Read more from Savoury onions for hearty winter meals on CanadianGardening.com.

Discover the most popular onion recipes on Canadian Living as selected by home cooks like you!

Page 1 of 1
Comments
Share X
Cooking School

Spanish onions: Eat the old, plant the new

Login