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Sweet alliums

Springtime Onion Slaw (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

As May turns into June, chives are blooming in our garden. The scallions I planted from roots salvaged from those purchased earlier in the season are getting tall. And the supermarket offers Vidalia onions from Georgia — the mildest onion variety.

There are many other sweet onions, but Vidalia is only grown in Georgia’s special climate and soil. This 20-county region of Georgia — the center of which is the city of Vidalia in Toombs County — has a very low sulfur content. This makes the Vidalia onion ultra-sweet, with a whopping 12% sugar content. That also raises their calorie count — one medium Vidalia onion has 60 calories, one gram of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber.

Vidalias have a higher water content than other onion varieties. This contributes to their juiciness and unique flavor, but also shortens their shelf life, which is why they’re only available in May and June — the season our northern gardens begin producing chives and scallions. They’re best stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer, rather than the onion bin. Some people wrap them individually to prevent them from drying out.

The bright green, grass-like tubular leaves of chives herald the coming of spring. One of the first perennials to pop up, they will last through the summer and past the first few fall frosts.

Like all onions, leeks, and garlic Allium schoenoprasum L. belongs to the lily family. They’re a hardy, easy-to-grow perennial. Once planted, they will come up every spring, their bright fresh green cheering up gray April days. Their purple blossoms, with a sharper flavor than the tubular leaves, come in late May or early June, decorating spring salads with colorful elegance.

Vegetables and dip (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Chives bring their gentle bite and vibrant color to potatoes, rice, pasta, soups, salads, fish and egg dishes. Their delicate flavor blends well with other herbs, and folks on sodium-free diets have used chives as a salt substitute.

Like other alliums, chives have antibacterial properties. They help improve digestion and reduce high blood pressure. Chives contain vitamins A and C as well as minerals potassium and calcium — and almost no calories.

Chives are delicate, so snip them with scissors to avoid bruising. It’s best to use them right after they’re cut. If you buy them, store them in a glass of water in the refrigerator, as you would cut flowers. Use a very sharp knife when cutting on a cutting board. They’re best raw, so add just before serving to hot foods, like potatoes or pasta. Their delicate flavor and bright color is diminished by heat.

Scallions — immature tender onions — are known as green onions in America and spring onions in Europe and Australia. Ready to harvest just three or four weeks after planting, they’re milder tasting than mature onions, and add color and zest to any dish. The whole plant, except for the root tip, can be used; the root tip can be re-planted.

Nutritionally superior to mature onions, their green leaves provide more vitamins A, C and folic acid, calcium, and more magnesium and potassium than the mature onion bulb. Like all onions, they contain quercetin, a potent antioxidant important in cancer prevention.

Their peak season in our area is late May and June. One of the joys of spring is going to the garden and picking a few scallions to spice up a dish I’m preparing in my kitchen.

To use, cut away any wilted green parts and the root tip, and peel any loose skin around the white part. Rinse under running water and slice into the lengths you need. Serve with a raw appetizer tray, add to salads, add at the last minute to soups, or use in Asian dishes and casseroles. They cook quickly and add a last-minute flourish of color and flavor to almost any dish.

Springtime Onion Slaw or Salad

This simple salad goes with almost everything.

Ingredients:

About 2 cups sweet onions — use any combination of Vidalia, scallions and chives (I used one Vidalia onion, three scallions and a bunch of chives)

1 teaspoon salt

1 or 2 apples

1 Tablespoon good-quality apple cider vinegar

2 cups baby Bok choy or lettuce, chopped fine

1 or 2 cups dark greens, like spinach, baby kale or dandelion

Dressing:

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon good quality mustard

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

Directions:

Peel onion. Using a sharp knife, slice or mince Vidalia, scallions and chives 1/8 inch thin.

Place in salad bowl; sprinkle with salt and stir to combine.

Wash, core and dice apple fine. Add to onions and sprinkle with cider vinegar; stir to combine.

Finely mince remaining vegetables; stir into salad bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard and maple syrup. Fold into salad.

Serves 4 – 6.

Simple Allium Dip

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup finely chopped Vidalia or scallions (or some of each)

1/3 cup snipped chives

Directions:

In a blender or processor, puree the sour cream, Greek yogurt, salt, pepper and Vidalia until finely chopped. Transfer the dip to a bowl and stir in finely minced chives.

Use as a dip with veggie crudites, roasted potato skins or potato chips. Also good as a topping for baked or mashed potatoes.

Makes about 1 cup of dip.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: Writing and cooking. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on X: @yvonawrites.

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