Diggin' Bulbs: Flavorful Alternatives to Onions and Garlic
Edible bulbs, with their distinctive flavors and slew of nutritional benefits, make other vegetables look lazy. Adding their earthy, pungent sweetness is one of the simplest ways to transform any dish, from an omelette to pasta. And the sulfides in these bulbs (which are responsible for their strong smells and flavors) will ward off more than just the characters on True Blood: Vegetables in the allium family have been linked to reduced risk for breast and colon cancers and contain a number of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and quercetin, which may have disease-thwarting and age-avenging properties.
While most — garlic, onions, scallions, shallots, and leeks — are available year-round, a few other culinary gems from the same plant family can be found only in spring. These include ramps, scapes, and green garlic.
Go beyond basic bulbs and try these slightly more exotic options recommended by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, coauthors of The Flavor Bible:
Green Onions (Scallions)
Milder than a red or yellow onion but stronger than chives, they pair well with eggs, goat cheese, and Asian food. They're delicate enough to use as a garnish, unlike other bulbs.
Think of a less-pungent, slightly sweeter bulb of garlic and you've got the idea. Shallots are great in salad dressings, vinegars, and butters, or mixed with tomatoes or herbs such as thyme and tarragon; they can even stand up to beef.
These curly, deep-green stalks are the shoots that grow from hardneck garlic bulb varieties. Similar to asparagus in texture, they have a more subtle flavor than the bulbs. Chop and add them to ground beef or lamb or use to make pesto.
Also called spring or early garlic because it has yet to mature, green garlic can be distinguished from green onions by its flat green leaves and purple tint on the stalk. Its more subdued flavor is fantastic in dip: Purée the greens and bulbs with white beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and smoked paprika.
Foodies rave about ramps (also called wild leeks), which are harvested in early spring and have a small white bulb, purple-tinged stalks, and onion-scented edible green foliage. Grill them whole and drizzle with olive oil; add them to scrambled eggs, a frittata, or pizza; or Google pickled ramps to learn how to make the perfect condiment.
Their subtle earthiness comes out when they're lightly sautéed, and they make an ideal partner for fish, shellfish, chicken, and potatoes, as well as sauces made with mustard or white wine.
Avoid a teary scene by chilling onions for half an hour before chopping to slow the release of sulfuric compounds into the air.
BAG YOUR BULBS
To keep them fresh, store bulbs in an open brown paper bag in a dry, cool, dark location. Don't put them in the fridge, though; it will make them sprout faster.
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- The Editors of Women's Health