Georgia Sweets In Season

Insider's Viewpoint: Rosanne Toroian, Schnuck Markets

Now’s the time to scoop up juicy and sweet Vidalia onions, the pride of Georgia prized around the world for their mild flavor without the pungency or bite. When you think of sweet onions, Vidalia’s are usually the first to come to mind. The namesake of Vidalia is a town located in a southeast Georgia county about an hour outside Savannah, where the onions were discovered about 75 years ago by a local farmer who realized his onions tasted sweet, not hot. He soon garnered top dollar for his crops. When the Depression hit, other local farmers, seeing their neighbor’s good fortune, planted the yellow Granex seeds and finally received fair prices for their produce.

Within 10 years, these unique onions were sold in Vidalia’s farmers market and eventually Piggly Wiggly, which help spread the onion’s reputation. Thanks to the region’s climate and soil’s lower level of sulfur, only 13 Georgia counties and parts of 7 others are permitted to grow and sell onions with the Vidalia® label. Today growers plant over 14,000 acres of Vidalia onions annually yielding about 20,000 pounds of onions. To earn Vidalia status, they must undergo strict inspections to check for taste, physical characteristics and chemical composition.

Onions are harvested from mid to late-April through June. Because of their delicate nature, Vidalias are usually harvested by hand and then held in a controlled environment which allows them to be stored and sold into fall or winter.

Cholesterol free and low in sodium, Vidalias are a good source of vitamin C. Choose onions that feel heavy for their size with a dry, papery skin. Avoid any onion that has sprouted or feels spongy. Store uncut onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, or, to preserve onions for a longer period of time, wrap each onion in a paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use.

Classic French Onion Soup

  • 3½ pounds Vidalia® onions
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 French baguette (about 8 ounces), cut diagonally into 12 slices
  • 8 ounces Gruyère or Swiss cheese; shredded (2 cups)
  1. Cut each onion in half, then thinly slice. In large saucepot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and salt and cook, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until onions turn golden brown, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 10 to 15 minutes longer or until onions are very tender and deep golden brown, stirring frequently.
  2. Add wine to onion mixture; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring to loosen any browned bits on bottom of skillet; boil 3 minutes. Add broth, thyme and 3 cups water; cover and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange bread on large rimmed baking pan; toast 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp; set aside. Do not turn off oven.
  4. Place 6 oven-safe bowls in same baking pan; spoon soup into bowls and top with 2 bread slices and Gruyère. Bake soup 12 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Serves 6.

Rosanne Toroian
Food Editor & Information Spet
Schnuck Markets, Inc.

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