Many early cultures grew and revered onions which are now found in many dishes throughout the world. The edible underground bulb is part of the Allium family. Onions can be yellow, white or red, sweet or pungent, and come in different shapes including tiny "pearls", flattened "cippolinis" and large globes. Onions can be divided into two major types: "storage" (or dry) and "fresh" (also referred to as spring, sweet, or green) onions. Fresh onions are harvested at an early stage while storage onions have been "cured" and have a papery husk to retain moisture over time.

Store fresh onions in a plastic bag in the fridge. They contain more water and have a shorter shelf life than storage onions. Storage onions should be kept in unrefrigerated in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place away from other produce. Never in plastic bags! They will last many weeks or months.

Fresh onions seem a bit sweeter and more juicy than storage onions, and can be great eaten in salads, grilled, baked, sauteed, etc. The green leaves of fresh onions can also be used raw or cooked in dishes. Storage onions can be used the same way but are more pungent in flavor due to more concentrated sulfur content than fresh onions. It is due to this sulfur that onions cause you to "cry" while you cut them - cutting onion cells releases sulfur gas compounds and forms sulfuric acid when it contacts water such as on the surface of your eyes. This burns and causes you to tear. While everyone has their favorite method of reducing onion tears, one easy way to keep sulfuric acid away from your eyes is to cut onions under or near running water.

Shallots, a relative of the onion, have a milder, sweeter flavor than onions and are great for storage. Keep them in a dry, cool place (not the fridge, not in plastic bags). They are great substituted for most onions in recipes, and are really yummy raw in salads or dressings.

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