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At the Market: Spring Onions, Green Onions and Scallions

August 10, 2020

The following information, recipe and photography were provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com. 

There is simply no ingredient that makes recipes sing like onions. Savory and sweet with a touch of heat, spring onions and scallions may be the most versatile member of the onion family since they don’t require cooking to be at their best.

What is a Spring Onion?

Spring onions are also be called scallions, green onions or salad onions and they can all be used interchangeably, though there are some slight differences between them. The defining characteristic of spring onions is that they lack a fully developed bulb with tubular green leaves growing directly from the bulb which is rounder than the bulb of a green onion or scallion. Green onions come out of the ground early in their lives, so they don’t get much of a chance to develop a pungent flavor. They have a milder taste than most onions whose relatives include garlic, shallot, leek and chive. Spring onions have more bite than scallions, which more closely resemble chives but all things considered, they are the same and so we are going to talk about them interchangeably.

Are Spring Onions Good for You?

Green onions are low in calories but full of micronutrients, including folate and vitamins K and C. They also boast beneficial antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds which promote bone density and lower blood sugar levels. So, onions are pretty good for you.

How do Spring Onions Taste?

You can eat green onions raw and they range in taste from mild to pungent depending on how they were grown. Cooking them brings out their milder, sweeter side, just like any other onion. I like to add them raw to salads, salsas or to top baked potatoes. If using them in baked good or egg dishes, I give them a short sauté. The trimmed white part is a bit more “oniony” than the hollow green stalks and I always use them both. It would be a waste not to use the tasty green stalks and I like the color they add to dishes.

Spring Onions

How to Pick, Clean and Slice Spring Onions

Scallions are available all year but are at their peak in spring and summer. Look for firm, unblemished bulbs with bright green firm stalks. Avoid any that are slimy. To clean them, trim the root end and wash under running cool water. I usually remove the outermost white layer, which makes it easier to slice. I like to cut green onions thinly with a sharp knife; a dull knife will bounce off the flesh of the onion, so make sure your knife is sharp. It will be ever so much more pleasurable and the onion slices will look better as well.

How to Store Spring Onions

Keep the onions in a perforated bag. I poke holes in the plastic bag from the grocery store, which helps to keep them from getting slimy. They will keep pretty well for 5 or 6 days but you will use them up long before that. If you wash the onions right before using them, they will keep longer.

How to Prepare Green Onions

  • Char them whole on a grill and serve with a garlicky dipping sauce.
  • Puree with fresh herbs, vinegar, olive oil and seasonings for a salsa verde to top grilled meats, fish and veggies.
  • Blend with cream cheese and yogurt for a Green Onion Dip.
  • Blend scallions with chick peas to make hummus.
  • Blend chopped scallions with softened butter to make a topping for fish, vegetables, rice, pasta or grilled bread.
  • Lightly sauté and use in egg dishes and frittatas, stir fries, marinades and dressings.
  • Thinly slice the green tops and use as a garnish for soups, salads, rice and mashed potatoes.

One of my favorite party recipes is this Green Onion Dip. I’ve been serving it for 30 years and it’s still a fan favorite. Nothing could be easier than plopping yogurt, cream cheese, green onions and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and letting it rip. The result is a beautifully green-tinged dip with a light onion flavor. The cream cheese and yogurt blend nicely to create just the right amount of creamy fat in this vegetable dip. Use leftovers to top baked potatoes. It’s heavenly!

Yogurt Scallion Dip

Another favorite is a Spring Onion and Bacon Scone. A good scone is a thing of beauty and these scones are studded with sautéed scallions and crumbly bacon to make a perfect breakfast or a lunch scone when filled with fried green tomatoes. The technique of freezing a stick of butter and grating it into the flour keeps these scones light and flaky and super quick to make, but you’d make them even if they took twice as long. Yes, they’re that good!

Spring Onion and Bacon Scones

Last but not least is a Cheesy Potato Cake with Spring Onion, Peppadew and Spinach. This cake, loaded with cheese, eggs and vegetables is hearty enough to be a main course, but it’s a perfect side to grilled or roasted meats. There are two bunches of scallions in this recipe, which perfume the cake with a sweet onion aroma. You’ll turn to this cheesy mash whenever you need a delicious, filling, make-ahead side.

Cheesy Potato Cake with Spring Onions

Whether you call them spring onions, green onions, scallions or salad onions, buy a bunch and cook up one or all of these onion-forward recipes this weekend. Raw or cooked, green onions add a punch of flavor to just about any dish…except maybe green onion ice cream.

By Carla Snyder
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes.

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