Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Praise of the Red Onion

As spring approaches and we begin the cycle of seeding and transplanting, I note that besides the frozen, blanched, canned or dried vegetables and fruits, we are down to the last two men standing in terms of what came straight out of the ground as is. This is the funny thing about early spring. The farmer’s markets begin with such hope (we start in 4 weeks – Ack!) yet there isn’t much growing in April around here. There are greens, greens, and more greens, fiddleheads for the resourceful forest dweller, sprouts or shoots, and anything a well-run heated greenhouse has mastered. But March and April can be sparse months where we are still using up the last of our stores from the year before.

This year we ate the last of our sweet peppers in January (they had grown through November in a heated greenhouse and kept in the fridge for well over a month). The carrots left us in February. Brussel sprouts from the field lingered in my crisper until Christmas.

Although the potatoes are sprouting or softening now, many are still crisp. But the stars of the show right now (actually any time of year for me) are the red onions that remain. They usually spend the winter in a cool, dry place and then sneak inside to our fridge crisper for its final days in early spring before they sprout. I fill the crisper drawer to the brim with small red flavour bombs and bask in the great pleasure of having unlimited red onions at my disposal.

Now, I know you all know the difference between a field tomato freshly picked, kept at room temperature and one you find in January that traveled green in a fridge and tastes of wood. I also suspect you’ve known a real carrot, the one that may have even endured a few frosts and sweetened themselves into oblivion. But can you honestly say that you appreciate red onion? Harvested in late summer or early fall, these delicious little nubbins (and I’ve yet to find a variety that I don’t swoon over), can be eaten raw, caramelized, grilled, sautéed, minced in a salad dressing, tossed into scrambled eggs or salad, thrown as rings on a salmon dish with maple syrup, mustard and capers, fried and then mixed with cheddar and cream cheese and walnuts for an outstanding warm dip. There was also that time that a friend bestowed some red onion jam on me. Shall I go on?

I am here to shout out the extreme wonderfulness of the red onion! There is something about these that make me love my husband even more for introducing them to me.

It also just so happens that the homeopathic medicine that I grab for the most is Allium cepa. You guessed it. Red onion. It is commonly used to treat the sneezy, stuffed up nose that comes from allergies, including hay fever. It works well for me. Red onion and I are best friends.

So don’t underestimate the power of an onion. It can heal you. It can even make you cry (although I don’t find these ones do). Bless ‘em.


  1. I have just a half dozen left from last years harvest hanging in the root cellar. Last night I fried one up with kale and eggs for an omlet. They ARE superb, and I am already bracing for several months without them before this years harvest!

  2. I never knew. I'm thrilled and convinced. I gotta have them!


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