Onions can be used in almost every type of food, from cooked foods and fresh salads to spicy garnishes. Often chopped or sliced, they’re found in recipes spanning almost every culture in the world. Depending on the variety, an onion can be sharp, spicy, tangy, pungent, mild or sweet. The whole plant is edible and is used as food in one form or another.
Common onions are normally available in three colors: yellow, red and white. Full-flavored yellow onions are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. They turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French onion soup its tangy-sweet flavor. The red onion, with its wonderful color, is a good choice for fresh uses or in grilling and charbroiling. White onions are the traditional onion for classic Mexican cuisine; they take on a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed.
While the large mature bulb is the type of onion people eat most often, onions can be eaten at immature stages, too. Young plants may be harvested before the bulb develops and used whole as “green onions.”
How to select and store onions
Whether you’re looking for mature bulbs or green onions, look for firm specimens with no soft spots or blemishes. Bulb onions should be heavy for their size, with papery skins that are clean and undamaged. Green onions should look fresh, with bright color and firm greens; avoid bunches with wilted or badly damaged greens.
Onions in any form are perishable, but the best place to keep them varies with type. Keep bulb onions in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place (55–65°F / 13–18°C), away from potatoes (potatoes will absorb the onions’ moisture and deteriorate faster). Keep green onions (or cut bulbs) at their best in the refrigerator, sealed in a bag to avoid transfer of off-flavors and odors.
Always wash onions thoroughly before use. Discard any onions that have sprouted, show signs of rot or mildew, or smell bad.
Tips for using onions
Fresh green onions are an ideal choice for salads and other fresh or lightly-cooked dishes. Bulb onions (also sometimes called “storage onions” because in proper conditions, they store well for quite some time after harvest and therefore are available through the fall and winter). Storage onions have an intense flavor and a higher percentage of solids; they’re the best choice for savory dishes that require longer cooking times or more flavor.
Why choose organic onions?
We believe that almost all fruits and vegetables have more flavor when grown organically because of the health and vitality of the soil — and that’s especially true of bulbs like onions, which spend their lives in direct contact with the soil. Earthbound Farm organic onions are grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, using farming methods that build healthy soil and vibrant ecosystems, and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic onions taste better, too!
WhatsOnMyFood.org from the Pesticide Action Network shows you searchable results for vegetables like onions and a wide range of other organic and conventional foods. It’s an easy-to-use and empowering tool for learning about pesticide residues and their health effects for all of us.