Focus: Spring Onion

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The humble spring onion. Or green onion. Or scallion. However you decide to call it, I thought it was only fitting that I start the first proper post on this blog by talking about one of the indispensable ingredients which solidifies Chinese cooking. In fact I can’t  recall a time this has not been a part of my daily meal, from as long as my memory of food exists, it has always been here – flavouring everything from fried rice to roast pork.

These have a fresh even slightly sharp aroma, has a bit of a kick if you eat it raw, will make you cry if you chop 3 bundles of fresh ones but taste great as a last add to your dish. It is used in practically everything but is especially great in marinades and flavouring oils.

These ingredient focus posts (they have their own category tab; find it at the top of the page to make everyone’s lives easier) are a chance for me to dive deeper into a certain ingredient including where to find them, how to use them, their practicality in my kitchen and sometimes even how to grow them yourself.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Always use fresh spring onion (unless there is an apocalypse and you are down to the last rations of instant ramen). I never thought it was even a thing, until one day I saw a jar of dried spring onion being sold in the supermarket. Don’t do it. Ever. The aromatic flavour of spring onion comes from the fresh juices in the plant; it’s not like basil or rosemary which are perfectly delectable dried.
  • Look for tender leaves to season your cooked dishes. Some markets sell rather large, older spring onions which have tougher greens. Reserve those for putting into a braised/roasted dish or simply to flavour oils without actually being eaten. They generally don’t taste that great. #personalopinion
  • Wash inside the tubular leaves thoroughly. Markets tend to chop off the wilted tips and then mud/dirt gets into them which makes for a not so delicious meal when you bite into it.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Don’t freeze them and think you can thaw and reuse later. Freezing spring onions causes the water inside to turn into ice and once defrosted you are left with a container of soggy, limp greens that will only be acceptable if you decide to puree it into a soup.
  • Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. As with most vegetables, coming into contact with water seems to make them go bad faster. Once washed, they will be fine if kept in a dry container for a few days – lets say ideally not longer than 3 days. Wash and eat what you need. Keep the rest in the refrigerator.

 

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GROW IT:

Spring onions are some of the easiest things to grow so unless you live in a freezing climate, there’s really no excuse not to indulge in freshly grown ones from your own garden (in the ground or in a pot, I won’t judge). In fact, you can plant these right into those long plastic planter pots as long as you make sure to have some drainage underneath. The best way to get them started is simply to buy spring onions with the bulb and roots attached next time you’re at the market. Snip it about an inch from the bottom and plant the roots. A bit of heat is just fine though I wouldn’t put them out in full sun if it gets hot all day. They grow fine on their own but a little fertilizer and they will spring up in no time. When you’re ready to harvest, simply snip the greens and leave the root/bulb in the ground to regenerate. Growing it at home may or may not be economical depending on how accessible these are in your area.

LAST WORD:

  • The Kitchn has a great post on the difference between scallions, spring onions and green onions if you want to be really specific but in my daily cooking they are pretty much interchangeable.
  • I’ve seen some people regrow their spring onions simply by putting them in a jar of water. It works but is slowly and I generally prefer soil.

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