Welcome to the world of onions, our mission is to make food taste amazing. So, it upsets us when people cry around us because we just want you all to be as happy as we are. I'm sure when you get to know us onions, you'll realise we're nothing to cry over. Let me tell you more of our story.
We're onions and we belong to the same family as garlic, leeks and chives. We grow underground and have many layers of fleshy skin and a dry skin on the outside that you need to peel off before you can eat us. Our strong smell, means that some people may cry when they cut us. We are worth a tear or two as we add flavour to so many dishes and can be eaten raw or cooked.
We are mostly round in shape and come in different colours such as white, brown, yellow or red. You can also buy torpedo-shaped onions and small egg-shaped onions which are often sold as pickling onions.
Onions are available all year but most plentiful from January to April.
We're not sold by variety in Australia. Normally we're sold by colour, sweetness or size.
In Australia, most of the onions grown are brown onions, making up about 79% of all the onions grown. Red onions are the next most popular, accounting for roughly 19% of all onions. White onions are less common, making up about 1% of the onions grown. Lastly eschallots, shallots or spring onions are the least grown, making up less than 1% of all the onions we produce.
Larger-sized onions are sold as brown, white, red or yellow, depending on outside skin colour.
Brown (or Yellow) Onions
We are the most common type of onion available in Australia.We have a papery brown to yellowish brown skin and creamy flesh. We are usually strong in flavour and are best for cooking.
We have white papery skin and moist flesh. We are milder than brown onions and are suitable for eating raw in salads, as well as cooking
We have red to purplish-red flesh and papery purple skin. We are sometimes called Spanish onions or salad onions. We vary in flavour and can be used raw in salads, as well as being cooked and pickled.
We're small onions with a thin, papery covering on our bulb. We're either white or brown and are used for pickling.
Green onions (shallots) and salad or spring onions.
We are onions that are picked when we are very young and have small white bulbs and green leaves attached. We are best in salads and stir-fries
We’re onion relatives, with a milder flavour. Our rounded to egg-shaped bulbs can have brown, golden-yellow or purple skin. They are usually sold in Australia by colour or shape and their bulbs are half the size of a golf ball.
We prefer a mild summer and a mild winter – however, the length of the days and temperature are the most important factors to ensure good quality. This will differ slightly between our varieties.
We have three main parts, our long green leaves, our roots and our bulb which barely appears above the ground. We prefer a sandy type of soil with good drainage or irrigation.
Harvesting starts when we reach maturity (which can take up to 6-8 months). At this point, we stop producing new leaves and roots, the nutrients still present in our leaves moves into our bulbs, and our tops, while still green, weaken just above our bulb and fall to the ground to die.
Mechanical onion diggers are used to harvest us. We're lifted, topped and tailed in the one process. Generally, we will lie in the field for a short period to allow our outer skins to dry out.\
Choose firm onions with dry, papery skin. Avoid spongy or sprouting onions with uneven or patchy skin colouring.
Green onions and spring onions should have crisp long green leaves attached to the small white bulb.
The smaller the onion the stronger the flavour. Store onions (the ones with a dry papery skin) in a cool dry, dark place for up to 2 months. Wrap cut pieces in plastic and store them in the fridge, they are best used within 1 day.
Store green onions and shallot in an airtight container or recyclable bag in the veggie crisper in your fridge. Use within 4-5 days.
Onions are grown in many parts of Australia, but most of them are grown in South Australia and Tasmania.
We're an ancient vegetable thought to have come from Central Asia. We have grown for over 5000 years in Egypt, 2000 years in Italy and more widely in Europe during the Middle Ages.
In Ancient Egypt we held a special place in the vegetable hierarchy as we were seen as a symbol of the universe, and were represented in carvings in pyramids built between 2500 and 2200 BC. Along with beer and bread, we were also an important food for Egyptian peasants around 1200 BC and have been found depicted in many Egyptian tombs. We were also sold in the streets of Ur, in ancient Mesopotamia, 5000 years ago.
Greek physicians around 60 AD, prescribed us for eating, as well as for medicinal reasons.
Richard II, King of England, had many recipes using us in his 1390 ‘cookbook'.
Our seed was planted on Norfolk Island in March 1788, a short time after the First Fleet arrived in Australia. The earliest records of vegetables for sale in the colony in the early 1800s included us at the price of 2 shillings and 6 pence per ounce. In 1835, brown, white, Spanish and bunching (Welsh) onions were being grown around Sydney.
We can be eaten raw or cooked, as a vegetable, as an ingredient in other dishes or as a seasoning.
Although our flavour can vary according to our skin colour, we can often be substituted for each other in recipes. The white onion is considered the mildest flavour, the red onion is the sweetest. To help stop your eyes watering when peeling and chopping us raw, put us in the freezer for 10 minutes or the fridge for 1 hour.
Trim our root end and top and remove the dry papery outer skin. For green onions (shallots) and spring onions, trim the small white bulb and darker long green leaves.
Onions are best cooked until they are soft and translucent. Raw onions are best very finely sliced or chopped.
Barbecue sliced onions and add to burgers and sausage sandwiches.
Fry chopped onions with garlic, celery and carrot and use as a base for Bolognese sauce, pasta dishes and soups.
Add finely chopped onion to tacos, guacamole and other Mexican dishes.
So many recipes use onions, try these from Sydney Markets;