All onions vegetables should be crisp and fresh smelling. Yellow,
white, and red onions should have dry, papery skins with very dry stem
ends. Avoid any that are soft, damp, show bruises, or have begun to
sprout. Do not buy onions that have a musty smell (somewhat like
rotting leaves). They will contaminate any other onions they are stored
Sweet onions, such as Vidalia, Walla Walla, and Texas Super Sweets are
much more fragile than their stronger-tasting brethren. Their season is
usually very short, only a few weeks from late May to midsummer at
most, and they are shipped as soon as they are pulled. I have noticed
in the last year or two, as these onions do not store well - even
though some growers are experimenting with methods to "harden" them.
They contain more water and are much juicer than strong onions and have
a tendency to go soft quickly. I have not had any success trying to cut
out the soft areas; the disagreeable taste of spoiled onion seems to
penetrate everything. My advice is to enjoy Vidalias, and the other
super sweets to their fullest when they first come into the market, and
then return to the longer-lasting varieties until the next year.
Boiling onions vegetables are usually sold pre-packaged in bags or pint
containers. Look for the plumpest with papery thin skins - regardless
of the color. As soon as you get them home, open the container and pick
over the onions to remove any that might have begun to sprout or spoil.
Green onions (scallions) are available all year long. They are simply
younger versions of the more familiar dry-skinned bulb onions.
Scallions are shoots that have not yet developed any bulb and are the
same thickness from root to tops. Green onions have a slightly swollen
white bulb beneath the dark green tops. Recently, for a week or two
just before the mature Vidalia come into the market, I have found small
bunches of Vidalia green onions. The bulb is about the size of a
shooter marble and the flavor is ultra-sweet. If you find them,
indulge. They are wonderful raw. All green onions should be as crisp as
possible. They should not have limp or yellowing tops, and the white
parts should not be slimy. This is not to say they should not be wet.
Many markets these days keep their produce crisp by misting them on a
regular schedule. If the green onions are wet from misting, but not
slimy, be sure to dry them before placing in a perforated plastic bag
to keep them from spoiling too quickly.
Shallots are sold loose or sometimes in small bags. Select plump, heavy
cloves with no sign of a green sprout. The skins should be dry, but the
cloves should not be. Avoid any that are spongy or light weight.