There is an abundance of onions currently available, but the most common are: yellow cooking onions, large red and white onions, green onions or scallions, and Vidalia onions. Pearl, cipollini and shallots are smaller onion varieties that add a slightly sweet-smelling scent and flavour to many sauces and vinaigrettes.
- Yellow cooking onions are the most common in Canada. Most recipes that call for “onion” are generally referring to yellow onions because these are an excellent choice for cooking and caramelizing. Mild tasting and quite sweet in flavour (especially between March and August) these onions are available year round, however, those harvested between September through to February tend to be pungent and stronger in flavour. Their versatility means they can be enjoyed raw, lightly cooked, sautéed, grilled, baked and roasted.
- Red onions are a popular choice when raw onions are called for, thanks to their pretty colour and overall mild flavour. They also leave less of an after taste then yellow onions. They are best enjoyed raw or lightly cooked.
- These onions have a slightly different composition so they don’t store as well as their yellow cousins. They are commonly enjoyed in white sauces and in salads as they have a clean flavour. They are best consumed raw, or lightly cooked.
- When a less intense onion flavour is required, green onions are the answer. They can be eaten raw or cooked and the entire onion can be consumed, if desired. Available year round, be sure to look for brightly coloured, undamaged leaves with firm stem ends.
- People who like onions but dislike the potent taste will find sweet onions a happy alternative. These crisp onions are ideal for eating raw, but when caramelized can add a deep, rich sweetness to a variety of dishes. In season, between April and September, look for onions that are firm and free of bruises.