What are the Different Types of Onions?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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There are several different types of onions, most all of which are used to enhance the flavor of food when cooking. The different fresh types are mostly recognized by their color. They are divided into two main categories: green and dry. Dry onions are further categorized as either spring/summer or fall/winter. The spring/summer varieties are sweet and the fall/winter varieties are for storage.

Green onions are those that are harvested while their shoots are still young and green. They can be chopped and used for toppings on salads, baked potatoes, soup, and a wide variety of other culinary uses. The green onion and the scallion are typically used interchangeably both in reference to the onion itself and in cooking, but they are actually two different varieties.

Dry onions can be red, white, or yellow in color. They are harvested once the shoots have died and the onions are left with a paper-like covering encasing the fleshy vegetable. Spring/summer varieties are the sweeter type, but do not store well like fall/winter varieties. The most common sweet onion is the Vidalia, which is named for their growing location in Georgia. Others include the Sweet Imperial, the Spring Sweet, and the Walla Walla, named for its growing location in Washington.


Storage onions such as the red onion, the boiling onion, the shallot, and the Spanish onion are found in stores year round, but are at their prime in late fall. They are most often yellow, though they can come in all three common dry colors. They have a longer shelf life than spring varieties and contain less sugar and water. This makes them ideal for flavoring dishes that require long simmering or cooking times such as chili or roasting meats.

In addition to flavoring many dishes, onions are also prepared pickled, boiled, sauteed, and deep-fried. Those that are deep-fried can be prepared as rings or petals are a popular appetizer in many American restaurants. Besides fresh, they can also be purchased canned, frozen, and dehydrated as a spice or powdered.

When selecting fresh onions in the store, look for those that are firm and dry with a shiny, crackling outer skin. Be aware of excessively strong odors as this might indicate rotting. Rather, fresh whole onions should have a mild odor. Also avoid those with dark spots as this can indicate mold. Sweet onions are best used fresh because they do not keep well. To get the best flavor, purchase and use them within a day or two.


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Post 12

What exactly is a french onion?

Post 10

Onion is best for asthma. It also reduces the chance of stroke and in breathing. It is also best in sex if taken in lunch not in dinner.

Post 8

the red onion is the sweeter one out of the fall/winter varieties

Post 7

Not to be left out of the 'sweet onion' category are the Noonday onions. They are grown "within a 10 mile radius of city hall, Noonday, TX. These onions rival any of the others billed as 'sweet' in my considered opinion.

Post 6

Among the dry onions, which is sweeter, the red, yellow, or white onion? I know the Vidalias are, but they aren't in season for very long. I use mine for salads and can never remember which is sweeter.

Post 5

I luv onions. I bet I eat them everyday. Mostly Vidalia and Yellow varieties. Vidalias use to have a season but now they seem to be around all year long. When they are in season, mid summer, I think their taste is without equal, mild and yet flavorful. I wonder what the health benefits are because I've been told by many who know how much onion I eat that they are very healthful.

Post 4

Does onion increases sex drive as many believe? how?

Post 2

Onions contain flavonoids, substances that help slow down the aging process of immune system.

anon235-porrum is Latin for leek, and porei is Belgian for leek. Leeks are in the same family as onions. Hopefully this answers your question.

Post 1

what are onions 'porei' ?

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