All About the Allium Family
JUNE 29, 2022
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No matter where you are from, when you start cooking you will probably chop an onion and/or garlic before doing anything else. But did you know that they're from the same family? Let's learn more about the Allium family!


The Allium Family

Allium is the Latin word for garlic. These vegetables are high in beneficial sulfur compounds, which gives them their distinctive smell and taste. They're an important part of our diet and include shallots, leeks, and chives which has their own ways to be stored and enjoyed. 

(Photo Source: Mayu Ken)


1. Onions (Allium cepa)
Onions can come in white, yellow, red or purple skin. Originally from Central Asia and the Middle East, onions have been cultivated for thousands of years. In addition to culinary uses, they were also prized for their antiseptic properties.

Storage: Store onions in a cool, dark, and dry place. Moisture and light lead to mold and sprouting so stow in a dry, well-ventilated basket, bin, or large bowl.

Use: Sweet onions are best for frying. Yellow onions are perfect for all-purpose cooking. Red onions are peppery and a little spicy which is great for salads and sandwiches. White pearl onions are the smallest type of bulb onion and a favourite for pickling while bigger white onions are perfect for salsas, chutneys, and in other raw preparations.

(Photo Source: Dhivyaa Naraayani)


2. Shallots  (Allium cepa gr.aggregatum)
Shallots have a sweet, mild flavour that sits somewhere between onion and garlic, which is why they are often favoured by chefs. A shallot looks like a small, elongated onion with a copper brown, red, or gray skin. When peeled, shallots separate into cloves like garlic.

Storage: Seal in an airtight container. Fresh shallots will be edible up to 10 days when stored properly. 

Use: Cut and allow to rest for five to ten minutes before heating.

(Photo Source: MyFoodBook)


3. Spring Onions (Allium fistulosum)
Spring onions are similar to scallions/green onions but differs in their age or time grown before being harvested. The bulb of a spring onion is much larger and spring onions are harvested during the spring, hence the name. 

Storage: Place spring onions wrapped in damp towel into your storage container or plastic bag, then place the sealed container in the refrigerator. Green onions are light and delicate so avoid storing veggies on top of them.

Use: Add at the end of a dish as a final touch to add a pleasant taste, aroma and crunch.

(Photo Source: Christopher Previte)


4. Scallion or Green Onions (Allium fistulosum)
Scallions are long with a white stem end that does not bulge out, usually no wider than the onion’s stem, compared to spring onions.

Storage: Wrap the scallions in a slightly damp paper towel which provides the humidity needed for proper storage. If the towel is too wet, it can promote rotting. Place the wrapped scallions inside a plastic bag or storage container then refrigerate. 

Use: The perfect garnish: a little crunchy/oniony and they add color and freshness. Every part is usable minus the roots at the bulb. 

(Photo Source: Mike Kenneally)


5. Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic has the strongest taste out of everyone from the Allium family and are very easy to grow. Originally from Central Asia, garlic has also always been known for its medicinal uses.

Storage: Store at room temperature in mesh bags. Fresh garlic is best stored in dry, dark places.

Use: Lightly sauté for a few minutes to flavor your dish. A long roast will bring out its sweetness. 

(Photo Source: The Spruce Eats)


6. Leeks (Allium porrum)

Usually about 12 inches in length and 1-2 inches in diameter. Features a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle. Wild leeks, known as ramps, are much smaller in size, but have a stronger flavor. The nutrients in leeks are most concentrated in their lower leaf and bulb portion so unlike green onions, green parts do not have to be eaten.

Storage: Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture. Leeks will keep in the freezer for about three months.

Use: Featured heavily in French, Dutch and Belgian cuisine and complement well with potatoes. Use green parts for stock

(Photo Source: HealthifyMe)


7. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Thin and delicate but big on flavor. Chives come in two types, onion and garlic although onion chives are the most commonly sold in grocery stores.

Storage: Place ends in water and store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days. You can also freeze chives by chopping them up and placing them in freezer bags.

Use: Cut raw and add to finished foods like dips, salads, vinaigrettes, butters, pasta, soups. Do not cook them as getting them too hot destroys many of their benefits.


Did you learn anything new or did we miss something? Let us know! 



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