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Know your alliums
Scallions, green onions, and spring onions are all fall classified as alliums. This includes all species of onions such as salad onions, pearl onions, Chinese onions, garlic, leeks, and chives. Don’t think they’re just cooking ingredients either: ornamental alliums also exist, like the gorgeous Purple Sensation and the hardy Yellow allium. All in all, there are over 700 different varieties of allium plants.
What are scallions?
Scallions are harvested from the tops of growing young onions, or are grown from onions that never develop into bulbs at all. They have long green stalks that fade into a soft white at the ends and can be grown year-round.
The entire plant is edible, though in Australia we often just use the white ends for the most flavour. In Asian countries, they often use the entire plant, chopping and dividing it by the different shades. Scallions have a tangy, onion-y bite that while noticeable, is still not as strong as regular onions.
What are green onions?
Green onions is just another name for scallions. Aside from the name (which is changed because some supermarkets bunch them with other kinds of onions for clarity) they’re the same as any scallion you can find.
What are spring onions?
Spring onions look identical to scallions, except with a noticeable bulb at the end. They’re harvested from bulb-growing onion varieties or as scallions left to mature. Planted in the late fall and harvested the following spring, they come in either red or white.
Like scallions, all of the spring onion is edible. They’re sweeter and mellower than scallions, but the green parts are much more intense in flavour. They have a strong and sweet flavour that makes them perfect for recipes that require roasting.
Storage and usage
If you ever go overboard with the groceries, you can store them like so:
- Spring onions: keep them in the fridge’s crisper drawer, sealed in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for two weeks before they wilt and spoil.
- Scallions: put the scallions in a jar filled with an inch or two of water to give them extra moisture. Cover with a plastic bag and place inside the fridge. They’ll last for up to a week this way.
Since scallions and spring onions are heavily affected by ambient moisture, never put them in the freezer. That can cause them to become slimy or limp due to the abundance of water in the freezing air.
Using either allium is simple as most recipes will generally instruct you on the best ways to incorporate your spring onion or scallion. Here’s a handy link on how to cut your green onions, and another one detailing how to prep your spring onions.
Scallion and green onion substitutes
But what if you don’t have either on hand? Well, luckily you have all their cousins to choose from! You should always try to substitute part by part (bulbs to bulbs, greens to greens, and so on) for each allium. This has several benefits, the most important one being the versatility of the ingredients available to you.
The only time you should be particular about the substitutes is if you’re eating them raw. Most alliums equalise in flavour after they’re done cooking, so it’s possible to substitute a different onion species for another one in a pinch.
If you want to upgrade your kitchen experience, knowing the small differences between your onions is a great place to start! You can use them interchangeably if you want to, but knowing the ideal allium for the job can be the difference between a good meal and a great one.