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Confused about red onions

I grew up using red onion (bermuda, purple) for salads, sandwiches or anywhere I wanted raw but fairly mild. I've lived all around the country too and no problems with onions until coming to the South. Now I can't trust red/purple onions at all--they'll be sharper and more pungent than yellow or white.

I really miss having a somewhat mild onion on a tomato sandwich or in a salad, but I haven't been able to figure out what's safe. (They sell a lot of sweet onions here, but I don't want a sweet taste.) We've tried buying them from different stores too, but the ones we recently got at Whole Foods were actually the most stinging to the eyes I've experienced in a long time. The kitchen stunk for days, and they were inedible on a salad.

Why would red onions be stronger here than what I've had elsewhere around the country?

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  1. I have not yet tried, but they say you should slice onions near an open flame.....also, you can soak the onions in water, or other liquid, and then dry them before placing on a sandwich or salad, I recently came back from a trip in Hawaii, and that's how they prepared the raw onions in the Four Seasons Hotel. A very nice cooking tip I had never considered before, but definitely will do so in the future.

    3 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      Rinsing your onions under water is a great trick. Another option, if you felt like it, would be to do a quick pickle. Only takes a minute and they'll keep in a tupperware for a long time.

      1. re: katecm

        I slice them and soak them in ice water for half an hour, then pat dry. It takes a good deal of the bite out.

        1. re: katecm

          Quick-pickled red onions are one of my favorite relish/condiment things. Such a great addition to a hundred different things.

      2. The :"strength" of onions is determined largely by the environment (particularly soil, but also weather) in which they're grown. Obviously the vareity of onion matters as well, but soil (terroir!) is why Vidalia onions taste the way they do. You're probably getting red onions grown from different regions than you're used to.

          1. re: GH1618

            Thanks for that--very interesting. Ready to try a tomato sandwich again! I'll also try the pickling method.

          2. When preparing onions for raw dishes, I always rinse them in cold water; it removes some of the sharpness.

            (YMMV).

            Max.

            1. I leave in So Cal and I swear the red onions have become more pungent in the last 5 years. When I want a mild onion, I now use a white onion--nice flavor with no acridness.

              1 Reply
              1. re: escondido123

                i am a big scallion fan for this reason.