The yellow onion is the all-purpose onion used in kitchens and restaurants across the nation. As a key ingredient of so many dishes, yellow onions are an important crop worldwide. During the winter, storage yellow onions have a brown appearance and are covered with a thin papery skin while spring and summer onions are lighter in appearance and often times have no papery skin on them. Yellow onions are usually firm and heavy and have a pungent flavor and smell that will ironically bring a tear to your eye. The strong complex flavor of the yellow onion makes it the preferred choice for onion rings, French onion soup, and Bloomin’ onion recipes.
Yellow Onions are available all year around and are grown in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Georgia, and Texas commercially. It is not uncommon to find onions in local markets in nearly every state in the nation.
White onions have a pure white skin and flesh and a unique mild and sweet flavor that is desirable in many dishes, with salsa being one of the most high profile. White onions sauté to a beautiful golden brown and provide an almost sweet & sour compliment to food. White onions are also served raw with many sandwiches. The white onion is more challenging to grow and store than other varieties as its snow white skin really intensifies any blemishes. Greening at the start of the season and black discoloration at the end of the season are commonly seen defects. About 5% of the US crop is white onions.
White Onions are available all year around and are grown in Washington, Nevada, Oregon, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The red onion is often referred to as a salad onion or a purple onion. The purplish-red skin is loaded with anthocyanins and flavonoids, antioxidants which give them their color. The red onion has a much milder and sometimes even sweet flavor as compared to the yellow onion, thus making it more adaptable in dishes that use uncooked onions. Red and yellow onions are one of the best natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that is particularly well suited for scavenging free radicals. Red onions will lose their amazing color when cooked, but still remain great tasting. About 10% of the US annual crop is made up of red onions.
Red Onions are available all year around and are grown in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Georgia, and Texas commercially.
Sweet Onions are mainly yellow in color, with a few red sweet varieties occasionally being marketed in the US. Sweet onions have grown from a niche item to mainstream as consumer’s value their very mild flavor. Low sulfur soils are a key to producing these mild onions. One thing that identifies some sweet varieties is their flatter shape as compared to the round globe shape of conventional onions. Sweet onions are well-suited to a variety of preparations and most often served raw. They have thinner skins than other onion types and are very juicy due to higher water content. Careful handling of sweet onions is critical to minimize bruising. Good quality sweet onions will be firm, free from blemishes and feel heavy. One noticeable trait we see with sweet onions is their attachment to a growing region in a branded form – this is to give them identity in the mind of consumers.
The most recognizable sweet onion varieties are the Vidalia® Sweet Onions, a flat sweet onion only grown in a 20 county region in South Georgia available April through early fall each year and the Walla Walla Sweet onions, a round yellow sweet variety grown in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon available for a limited time each year June, July, and sometimes into August. Many other states produce sweet onions both flat and round but lack the national name recognition. Colorado, California, New York, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas produce sweet onions for commercial sales and many other states have local niche markets for their home grown varieties.