Green onions taste like the scent of a fresh-mown lawn--that mild onion fragrance floating on the air.
Those wild onions cut down by your mower are cousins to the one you buy and are perfectly edible (as long as you don't slather your lawn with pesticides, herbicides or any other kind of chemical killing device). They're both alliums, the family that includes garlic, shallots and onions.
What to call the skinny ones sold in bunches of six? Take your pick: green onions, spring onions, young onions, pencil onions, scallions, they're all names for the same thing. (Scallions, though, are actually the name of a milder separate variety, too.) Technically, it's an immature onion. Left in the ground to grow, they'll eventually form an onion bulb. Pulled early, though, they are a delectable treat that's great for onion lovers as well as those who aren't quite so fond of the flavorful bulb.
For gardeners, it's the easiest vegetable you'll ever grow. Buy onion sets (small bulbs) from your favorite garden center or catalog, then as soon as you can work the soil, push them about an inch into the soil, pointy end up. In four weeks, you'll have green onions. To harvest them, grab the stalk close to the soil and pull gently. Shake off the loose soil--hose it off if you have water handy--and start enjoying your homegrown treat. The fresh ones are so much better than those that have been sitting around in the grocery store for who knows how long.
Plant the bulbs about once a month during the growing season for a summer-long supply. You can choose from white, yellow or red varieties. I especially love the red ones--their color makes for a dramatic change from the traditional white.
When buying them at the grocery store or pulling them from your garden, keep in mind that larger, older ones have a stronger flavor than the smaller ones. At the store, look for ones that are crisp with bright green leaves. Leave behind any with limp or faded stalks. They'll keep for a little over a week wrapped in plastic in the fridge.
To prepare them, first cut off the roots and peel away the outer layer of the onion to remove any lingering dirt. Next, rinse the leaves, spreading them gently with your fingers to get at the dirt in the crevices.
These onion adolescents add a mild onion flavor to food. This mildness makes their entrance acceptable in places where the grown-up version is considered too rowdy. While many recipes call only for the white part, ignoring the tasty leaves is a waste. Their flavor is milder than the root end and they add wonderful color as an accent or garnish. You can even use them to tie appetizers up into little packages--particularly tasty with smoked salmon.
They can be simple or elegant, and are as at home on in a down-home kitchen as they are in the finest restaurant. Why? You can just as easily chomp on them along with catfish as scatter them artistically over a salad.
Nearly every culinary culture uses these immature onions. It's a part of the Asian triumvirate of seasonings, along with garlic and ginger, where they appear in soups, stir-fries and many other Asian dishes. Europeans use them along with shallots to flavor many sauces and toss them on as a garnish to add flavor.
At home, serve green onions sliced over broiled or baked fish. Salads come alive when you sprinkle sliced green onions over them. Chop some up into a crab or chicken salad or sprinkle some over the cream cheese on your next bagel.
For a delicious dip or spread, mix a half-cup of chopped green onions with eight ounces of cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt. The sour cream/yogurt version is great with raw vegetables or spooned over baked potatoes. The cream cheese spread is heavenly on toast--especially if you add a little smoked fish.
You can even grill them--throw a couple on during the last few minutes of grilling time to serve with your next steak or wrap some around the skewer as part of your next kabob.
They also make a colorful and flavor-filled garnish sprinkled over soups. Frilled ones can even be used to decorate a serving platter. To frill the ends, cut off the roots and all but about three inches of the green tops. Now slice them lengthwise down from the green end into the white section. Put them in cold water and let them chill for several hours to curl.
You'll notice most of these suggestions call for raw green onions. Why? They don't hold up to long cooking. If you are adding them to a recipe that calls for simmering or stewing of any sort, add them at the end so that their flavor doesn't dissipate.
Short cooking is how they're used in an irresistible cheese quesadilla: lay slices on top of grated cheese between two tortillas and cook on a griddle or frying pan until the cheese melts. Slice and serve hot for a terrific appetizer or snack.
For a Mediterranean side dish, try this delicious combination of herbs, onion and grains.
Couscous with Onion
6 green onions
2 cups cooked bulgar or couscous
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 garlic clove, pressed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Chop the green onions and stir them into the grain along with the parsley, garlic and lemon juice. Let the flavors combine for half an hour and serve cold or at room temperature with pork, chicken or lamb.
Try this terrific version of pesto that's delicious tucked under the skin of chicken before grilling or baking or tossed with a little pasta and parmesan cheese.
6 green onions (tops included)
3 cloves garlic Lemon zest from 3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon lemon juice
Chop the onions, garlic and lemon zest finely or use a food processor or blender to do the work. Stir in the salt and lemon juice and you're ready to roll.
Onions have been eaten as long as people have been gathering food from the wild, and maybe even longer. Ancient Turkish legend has it that when Satan was kicked out of heaven, garlic sprouted where he took his first step and onions where he took his second.
Hmmm. Maybe THAT's what makes them so devilishly good.