Perhaps allium vegetables are the most valuable of all eatable plants. For their size these little bulb vegetables carry a big punch. Folklore from the mountains of Kentucky to the rainy streets of London, have told of the power of a braid of garlic to keep the evil spirits at bay when worn around ones neck or hung on the door sill of ones home.
For years garlic and onions have been used by the early medicine practitioner for all kinds of ailments and modern research has embraced some of the early uses as legitimate. Onions induce sleep. Garlic reduces blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Aside from folklore and medicinal uses, the allium vegetables carry a bounty of flavor for their size. Cooking and eating would be ever so bland without the allium vegetables, better known as the aromatics veggies. Onions, scallions, leeks, garlics, shallots, and chives are the most common of the allium vegetables used in everyday cooking served up in dishes all across the world since allium vegetables are found in many different varieties world wide.
In rural America, onions, in some form are used daily. Hamburgers are always served with onions either chopped and piled over the pattie, or a nice slice of white onion is sandwiched between the bun and the burger somewhere amongst the pickles and lettuce. Onions come in all sizes and colors; white, yellow, red, and green, from mildly hot to very hot, depending on the soil where they are grown and the variety of onion.
Scallions are simply baby onions harvested before they have time to mature into a large bulb and still have tender green tops. Many call these delicious little beauties spring onions, or green onions. Often one serves green onions raw along side a bowl of soup beans in the southern part of the country, while in other applications they are used as a garnish or chopped and mixed into a salsa.
Shallots are not onions but more closely related to garlic. There are usually a couple cloves grown together and are often separated before going to market. Shallots are used in a recipe similar to an onion. The flavor is more mild than most onions and the size of a clove is smaller than most mature onions. Salsas and salads are good applications where shallots fit nicely when just a little onion flavor is desirable. One can use a whole clove of shallot and not have to worry how to store half of a left over onion.
Leeks appear to be very large green onions. Leek favor is milder than most onions. Leeks are often used in soups and stews and require a special technique in washing since they don’t develop a solid “head”, but rather have layers of leek blades extending to the roots harboring the soil in which they are grown. Special care must be taken to make sure this soil is rinsed away before using in a recipe. A good way to clean away the soil is to cut the leek up and place into a large bowl of cool water. The soil will loosen and sink to the bottom of the bowl as the leeks are moved about in the water. A couple of rinsing and the leeks should be free from any debris and ready to prepare for eating.
Garlic is a vegetable some will either love or hate. It has an odor all its own. It can be eaten raw, but needs to be graded or chopped very fine if eaten raw. The oils in garlic is so strong, one can take a clove of garlic and rub it over crusty bread which has been brushed with olive oil and enough of the oil of the garlic is left leaving enough taste behind to have a nice garlic bread for a a pasta dish.
A head of garlic has a number of garlic cloves attached together and a whole head of garlic can be roasted together for some applications in cooking. It becomes soft and sweet when roasted and can be used in spreads, salads and many other recipes.
Chives is one of the mildest favors of the allium family of plants and makes a beautiful potted plant. Chives come is both onion flavor and garlic flavor. One can take scissors and snip chives from a plant and use to garnish potatoes or to use in cheese balls as well as other recipes. Their bright green color and their tiny round straw shaped leaves are beautiful and tasty and very easy to grow in a pot on the window sill.
When cooking allium vegetables the flavors change from hot to sweet. The natural sugars in the vegetables, especially onions,will caramelize into a lovely light brown. One must be very careful when cooking garlic. Garlic is easily burnt and it becomes bitter and not good to eat if it becomes to brown. If one likes onion and garlic cooked in butter, mix with a lighter vegetable or olive oil to prevent burning and stay close by watching the cooking process closely so burning does not occur.
Allium vegetables are an essential in every cook’s pantry. Aromatics are good keepers if stored properly so keep plenty on hand to use in combination with other vegetables for delicious stir fry, to cook with all different kinds of meats, and to add to pizzas and pasta dishes. If you have picky eaters in your family who might not like the texture of allium vegetables, try the dried ones which have been ground into powder. The product will still add flavor and zest into the dish, while the vegetable is completely hidden. This works very well, indeed, with onions and garlic.
If you shy away from cooking with allium aromatic vegetables because of the odor left behind, use an silicone cutting board for chopping the vegetables and a tiny amount of bleach added to the water will take care of the odor left on the cutting board and the bleach in the water will take the odor from your hands as well. Light a candle in the kitchen or add a few drops of vanilla flavoring into some water and slowly simmer on the back burner of your kitchen range. The odor won’t stay around long and the taste added to your dishes will make up for any odor left behind.
As for the odor left on your breath after eating food with aromatic vegetables, make sure to brush the back of your tongue well and chew some mint leaves. And with everyone eating the same wonderful food who will notice?
2. All About Allium Vegetables: Onions, Garlic, & Others