December Vegetable of the Month: Onions

Live Well Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls Food Council are proud to present the Eat Well, Live Well campaign! Each month, this campaign highlights a specific fruit or vegetable.

The December Vegetable of the Month is Onions!

Ahhh, the onion… one of the original cooking seasonings—they have been spicing things up and adding savory flavor to our recipes for thousands of years. It’s true! People have been enjoying onions and their close relatives: garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives for over 7,000 years. In fact, the European settlers made onions one of their main crops even though there were plenty of varieties of wild North American onions. The common, large-bulb onions we enjoy today most likely originated in ancient Persia and China.

So, why do we tear up when chopping onions? The reason for your tears is sulfenic acid. Onions produce sulfur as they grow. When you cut onions, they release a bit of that sulfenic acid into the air, which irritates your eyes and brings on the tears! But…fun fact: you can build up a tolerance. The more you’re exposed to it, the greater the resistance you can build over time. And don’t forget, cooking onions breaks the acid down which allows the sweeter flavors to come out.

Besides being packed with Vitamin C, phytonutrients, and fiber, onions are the ultimate flavor-boosters, adding everything from a zippy bite to a tangy sweetness to our favorite dishes. Here are just a few ways the most common onions can be used:

White onions—appear in many classic European and American recipes, they have a relatively even and balanced flavor (think French Onion Soup).

Red onions—are often featured in Hispanic dishes, and have much more pop to their flavor making them a great compliment to spices like cilantro and cumin. (Fiesta anyone?)

Yellow onions—the sweetest and most delicate variety, are often caramelized and can be used to top meat or sandwiches, added to dressings and soups, or even baked in pies (Vidalia onion pie is a Southern tradition).

A Few Classic, Fun, & Fresh Onion Ideas:

  • Raw slices with hummus or your favorite homemade dip
  • Chopped in fresh salsa
  • Added to omelets
  • French Onion Soup (just had to say it one more time!)
  • Caramelized on grilled sandwiches, burgers, steaks, chicken, or fish
  • Grilled whole-onion slices in place of meat—a sweet vegetarian option!
  • Halved and roasted with whole garlic cloves
  • Added to almost any type of soup or stew for a rich and savory kick
  • Basted in olive oil and broiled—tossed with your favorite veggies, potatoes, or as a bruschetta alternative!
  • Retool your breakfast sandwich: slice an onion into rings, place the largest rings in a frying pan with bit of olive oil. Crack an egg inside each ring. As the egg cooks, it’ll stick to the onion ring—and violá—making an easy and tasty base for a hearty toasted ciabatta breakfast sandwich!

Learn more about onions, and grab a delicious Onion & Celery Relish recipe with this Pick It! Try It! Like It! fact sheet.

Don’t stop there! Find ways to promote onions and other amazing fruits & veggies at your work, school, childcare, and in your community!

Sources: Eat Well, Live Well CampaignPick It! Try It! Like It!Fruits & Veggies More Matters

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

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