Onion advice requested
I am looking for Vidalia onions, but can no longer find them locally in NY. But I see "sweet onions" at Fresh Direct and Zabar's - are they similar? Thanks.
I think they are similar in taste, but Vidalias are from Vidalia Georgia and are only available for a limited time each year. I went to grad school in Atlanta and once went to the Vidalia onion festival...what a hoot!
I use whatever large sweet onions are in season interchangeably. I prefer the sweet onions as well. The large yellow sweet onions often have labels on them, with names like Walla Walla, Vidalia, Texas Sweet, or Maui. I think different growers ship them at different times. I buy them all year in the St. Louis area. They don't store very long, though.
Vidalia onions only have a short season.
"Sweet onions" can be really similar or not but are the only choice this time of year.
I think sueatmo is about right. I think that Oso Sweets, Mayan Sweets, And VeriSweets are also probably fairly reliably sweet. As a grower, I can tell you that many shippers ship what ever onion they have and call it a sweet. That confuses consumers. In general, fall-winter onions are not very sweet unless they are imported from the southern hemisphere. Look for the three labels I have listed during the winter period. Vidalias become available in about April.
Due to high consumer interest, the industry is responding by developing new varieties which will mean true sweet onion availability September through about January. These varieties will be more widely available by next fall. Check with me in September and I will tell you where you can get these truly sweet onions.
thew's comment about "the flatter the sweeter" is generally true with some exceptions. The new fall sweet onions will not be very flat, though they will be very sweet. Sweet onions also tend to be paler in color.
One final comment: When eaten raw, true sweet onions are much sweeter than others. But, when cooked, any onion is sweet. The bolder onions may even be sweeter when cooked because they have a higher solids content and therefore a higher sugar content. The "hot" taste components are cooked out of them. The bolder onions will have other more desirable cooking qualities such as firmness. When it comes to cooked onions, I do not understand the sweet onion craze.
I grew up near Vidalia, GA. While I love Vidalia onions, I've also had some Texas and Arizona sweets that were actually milder to me. In the fall and winter, I have a hard time finding an onion that is sweet and mild. The ones at your local stores might be sweet. One thing I've noticed is there is no real consistency in sweetness. I've bought 50 lbs of Vidalias in the past and half of them would be as strong as the yellow onions available year round in the stores. The amount of rainfall and temperatures each year also affect the taste of the onion.
From the Vidalia Onion Committee--VidaliaOnion.org:
Glad to see you're looking for our onions, and couldn't resist weighing in on this! We are indeed out of season until late April with the exception of salad onions in the late winter/early spring (these are offered on a limited basis). Might I suggest at the end of next year's season, wrap some Vidalias individually in paper towels and stick them in your crisper with the humidity gauge set to the lowest humidity (in other words, keep them COOL and DRY!) I'm still eating Vidalias right now and have about ten left that are good (you'll lose a couple here and there along the way). As for the "flatter the sweeter" comment, the respondent would traditionally be correct. However, we are constantly funding the development of new seed varieties that are heartier (increased shelf life and more resistant to insects, etc.) and that offer better characteristics for our end user. One of these characteristics is a rounder shape, which is preferred in the foodservice industry (restaurants). So, you will even find some rounder Vidalias these days. From time to time, the sweetness of even true "sweet" onions will vary, but another respondent was correct in that not all sweet onions are truly sweet. We have had such success with our sweet onions thanks to fans like you that other folks have tried to "ride our coat tails" by putting out any old onion and calling it sweet. So, be careful out there! I can vouch for the hard work our farmers put into real Vidalias--we're already planting for the 2008 season! If anyone has any other questions, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com. Sweet regards!!
Vidalia Onion Committee