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Cooking With Bulb Vegetables

What is a Bulb Vegetable?

There are many varieties of bulb vegetables, but onions and garlic are the most common types of edible bulbs. Onions come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavor intensities and can be prepared in an endless number of ways. With some types of onions only the bulb is consumed whereas with others both the bulb and the shoot are eaten. Onions and garlic have a distinct flavor that makes them all similar, but the intensity of flavor and varying degrees of harshness and sweetness is what distinguishes them from one another.

Green Onions

Onions are usually divided into two categories, green and dry. Green onions are those that are harvested while the shoots are still young and green and before the bulb has had time to mature. They are eaten raw and cooked. Scallions, spring onions, chives, and leeks all fall into this category. Here are some tips on how to pick out onions at the grocery store:

  • When purchasing green onions, look for those that have an even green color with no brownish patches.
  • Avoid any that are limp, cracked, or dried out or yellowing.
  • Green onions should be stored in the refrigerator.

Dry Onions

Dry onions can be red, white, or yellow in color and are harvested when the bulb has reached maturity, the shoots have died, and the onions are left with a papery covering. As these onions dry, the pigments in the skin determine color, which varies depending on variety. Dry onions for the most part are quite similar in flavor and can be used interchangeably in recipes.

  • Some types of dry onions, such as Vidalias and Walla Wallas, are harvested very early and have a thinner skin and a higher concentration of sugar than other dry onions. These onions have such a sweet, mild flavor that they are often eaten raw.
  • Shallots are another type of dry onion that is smaller than its counterparts and mild in flavor. Shallots tend to have two to three individual bulbs that grow next to each other under their papery outer skin.

Garlic

Garlic is grown in much the same way as dry onions and is harvested in the same way, once the shoots have died and the outer skin becomes tough. A bulb, or head, of garlic consists of a cluster of individual cloves that are each covered in papery, white skin. Garlic is revered for its contribution to both the culinary and medicinal worlds. Garlic adds a unique, delicious flavoring to foods and while it has a pungent, sometimes harsh flavor when eaten raw, the flavor mellows and sweetens as it is cooked.

Common Types of Bulb Vegetables

  • Garlic
  • Red onion
  • Yellow onion
  • White onion
  • Shallot
  • Ramp
  • Green onions

Nutritional Benefits of Bulb Vegetables

Though bulb vegetables aren't rich in vitamins and minerals, they are rich in organosulfur compounds that give them their antioxidant properties. This classification of vegetables in known as the Allium genus category and have been shown to help keep the body strong and protected against heart disease and tumor growth, high blood pressure, cancer and can even help reduce cholesterol.

Garlic, like onions also have many health properties and is claimed to have medicinal benefits that range from reducing cholesterol, regulating blood sugar levels, fighting infections, and cancer prevention.

Ways to Cook Bulb Vegetables

Most bulbs can be eaten raw or cooked. You can cook these vegetables in any way that you like including boiling, simmering, steaming, stir-frying, sautéing, roasting, grilling, broiling, stewing, braising and frying.

When purchasing dry onions, look for those that are firm and have a dry, smooth outer skin. Avoid those with soft spots, sprouts, or mold. These onions should be stored in a well-ventilated, cool, dark place away from potatoes, which give off moisture and cause the onions to sprout and rot. It is best not to store onions in the refrigerator because the moisture and lack of air circulation causes them to rot quickly.

Garlic should be stored in the same way as other dry onions, but because it has lower moisture content, it stores well in the refrigerator.

Sources:

  • "Health Benefits of Garlic and Onion", joybauer.com, 2014, http://www.joybauer.com/food-articles/allium-vegetables.aspx

About the Author

Daniella Malfitano is a chef, entrepreneur, author of six digital cookbooks (available on and Amazon and iTunes), TV host and creator of the PBS television series "Delicious Discoveries with Daniella Malfitano" and educator for her traveling cooking and wellness company Delicious Discoveries. Daniella is always available for cooking demos, culinary workshops, public speaking engagements as well as culinary consulting, culinary business development, and brand ambassador partnerships with brands that are in alignment with her passion for local, healthy food. Daniella's passion and enthusiasm for food is contagious and it is evident in everything that she does! For more information visit www.daniellamalfitano.com or email info@daniellamalfitano.com.

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