In Season: Vidalia Onions by Toby Amidor in Healthy Recipes, In Season, May 6, 2012
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Vidalia onions, the official state vegetable of Georgia, are only available for a limited time. Get your hands on these sweet onions while they’re in season!
What, Where & When?
During the Great Depression, farmers were looking for a new cash-crop. They were pleasantly surprised when a strange, sweet onion, grown near Vidalia, Georgia, became an instant moneymaker. Word spread of “those sweet onions from Vidalia” and that’s how the name was born.
Over time, the Vidalia onion began to gain national fame. In 1978 Vidalia onions had their own annual festival in Vidalia, Georgia where it is still celebrated today. In 1990, the Vidalia onion became the official state vegetable of Georgia and the name “Vidalia” is trademarked and owned by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. In order to be called a Vidalia onion, it must be produced in one of 13 counties and portions of 7 others, all in Georgia.
Vidalia onions are grown in low-sulfur soils that prevent bulbs from developing a pungent taste. (It’s the sulfur that makes you cry when you slice an onion.) Since Vidalias contain fewer sulfur compounds, you’ll tear less when you slice them.
Today, Vidalia onions are available in 50 states and most of Canada. They’re available from late April through August.
One medium Vidalia onion has 60 calories, 1 gram of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber. It also contains 15% of your daily dose of vitamin C.
What To Do With Vidalia Onions
The mild flavor of Vidalias makes them versatile for many recipes. Sauté as an accompaniment for steak or pork, use in a French onion soup, bake whole with a pat of butter or use for baked onion rings.
Caramelized Vidalias are perfect for yogurt-based dips or to dress up burgers, pizza, sandwiches or salads. To caramelize, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Lower heat to medium low and add 1 pound of thinly sliced onions. Stir occasionally to prevent browning. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the onions are slightly wilted and soft. Increase the heat slightly and cook for an additional 20 minutes stirring constantly, until browned and caramelized.
Vidalias can be preserved for when they’re not in season, either dried or frozen. To dry, evenly chop the onions and spread them on a cookie sheet, then bake at the lowest setting. Remove when dry but not brown. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
To freeze whole Vidalia onions, peel, wash and core the onions before placing in freezer-safe bags. To store chopped onions, spread on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, store in freezer-safe bags.
Wrap each individual Vidalia bulb individually in paper towels and place in the crisper drawer in the fridge for several months. You can also use the legs of clean, sheer pantyhose to store them—be sure to tie a knot between each onion and hang in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. Be sure not to store with potatoes, it will make the onions spoil quicker.
Vidalia & Pear Honey of a Soup
Recipe and photo courtesy of Vidalia Onion
Serves 4 – 6
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 medium Vidalia onions, peeled and chopped
3 sweet ripe pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ quarts chicken broth
1 cup cream
¼ cup honey
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons minced chives
In a 2 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. Add the Vidalia onions and pears, stirring to soften, two – three minutes.
Sprinkle in the curry powder and salt. Stir for another minute until the curry is fragrant.
Stir in the chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before putting in a processor or blender to puree until smooth. (Or you can use a stick blender and skip the cooling step.)
Return puree to the pan and add the cream and honey; heat through. Whisk in the yogurt and half the chives. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining chives. Or chill the soup thoroughly and serve in chilled bowls, sprinkling with the chives.
More Vidalia Recipes To Try: