What are Alliums Anyway?

Heather Forest

Vegetable Folklore

Early hunters and gatherers found wild onions growing in temperate climates. I found some in my lawn! Onions were sacred to ancient Egyptians. They were a main ingredient used in preserving mummies. An old Southern superstition suggests that if you throw an onion instead of rice after a bride, you throw away her tears.

There is nary any cuisine that doesn’t include allium vegetables. Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and scallions are all members of the Allium family, and are fundamental to so many dishes that cooking without them would be challenging. Although rich in flavor, they seem to disappear in many sauces, stews, and soups, and it can be easy to forget their presence, unless you were the one whose eyes were tearing while chopping them. Yet, these humble flowering plants pack a nutrient punch. A wide array of sulfur compounds gives onions, garlic, and other alliums their characteristic taste, smell, and tear-inducing pungency as well as their many health benefits.

It’s Fresh Allium Season!

Garlic and onions can be found year-round at markets, but spring and early summer are a chance to try some of the less well-known allium varieties. Garlic scapes, which have been featured on our menu, are curly green shoots of garlic bulbs with a subtler flavor than most allium vegetables. Bunching onions, otherwise known as spring onions, are more developed than scallions and less developed than mature onions. Chop them into salads or use them in sautées for taste of prehistoric times.

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