Vidalia onion, known for its sweetness and versatility, is much sought after among chefs and home cooks worldwide. This mild flavored, light-pink onion variety is grown as a specialty crop in the US state of Georgia.
Botanically, vidalia belongs to the same onion (Alliaceae) family, in the genus: Allium.
Scientific name: Allium cepa.
|Vidalia onions. Photo courtesy: Mike Mozart|
Vidalia onions have grown with utmost care only in the restricted area around the Altamaha River (confluence of the Oconee River and Ocmulgee River) systems in South-western part of Georgia State in US.
Least pungent of all the onion subspecies, Vidalia branded as the "world's sweetest onions." Their mild flavor is because of low sulfur content in the soil, combined with unique climate conditions found in its production area.
Vidalia onions carry fewer calories than red onions. While 100 g fresh vidalia has just 32 calories, red onions hold 40 calories.
Unlike other onion varieties, vidalia contains small amounts of Allium and Allyl disulfide. These phytochemical compounds, which give pungent character to onions, convert into allicin when subjected to distortion (crushing, cutting, etc) through enzymatic reaction.
Research studies found that these compounds possess anti-mutagenic (protection from cancers) and anti-diabetic properties (helps lower blood sugar levels in diabetics).
Moreover, allicin has cholesterol controlling properties. It inhibits HMG-CoA reductase, the cholesterol producing enzyme in the liver cells. Further, it also found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal activities.
Allicin also brings down blood vessel stiffness through facilitation of nitric oxide (NO) release in their walls, and thereby reduction in the total blood pressure. Further, it prevents platelet clot formation in the blood vessels and thereby, helps reduce overall risk of stroke, coronary artery disease (CAD), and peripheral vascular diseases (PVD).
Onions, including vidalia, are a rich source of chromium, a trace mineral that helps tissue cells respond appropriately to insulin levels in the blood. It thus helps regulate insulin action and control sugar levels in diabetes.
Vidalia hold slightly less amounts of flavonoid antioxidant quercetin than red onions. Quercetin is found to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic functions.
Vidalia hold more folates (23μg) than red onions (19μg). It is also a moderate source of other B-complex group of vitamins like pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamin. Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) helps in the relief of neurotic conditions through increasing GABA levels in the brain.
It is also a modest source of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, manganese and zinc. Manganese acts as a co-factor for the anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Further, isothiocyanate antioxidants in them help provide relief from cold and flu by exerting anti-inflammatory actions.
Vidalia onion is the official state vegetable of Georgia.
Its designated growing region is regulated by Georgia Department of Agriculture and limited to 20 odd counties in Southeast part of the state.
The crop is protected by Federal Marketing Order #955.
Vidalia Onions contain higher water and sugar content than other onion varieties.
Vidalia's sulfur content is very low; hence they are sweet in taste and unusually less pungent than any other onion varieties.
Vidalia requires mild winters, shorter day-times and adequate moisture in the soil to flourish.
Completely grown bulbs are ready for harvesting from early spring through mid-June. Harvesting is usually done by hand considering the delicate nature of vidalia onions. Later, they dried thoroughly, graded and packed before dispatching for customers.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.08 g||0.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||0.9 g||2.25%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.098 mg||2%|
Fresh Vidalia Onions can be available through mid July in grocery stores and super-markets in US. Due to the introductions of controlled atmosphere storage, stored vidalia Onions are now available through December.
Buy uniform, medium-sized onions. Avoid any sprouts, blotched, and soft ones.
Unlike other variety onions which can be kept in cool, dark place, Vidalia need refrigeration because of their high moisture content. Wrap them in paper towels and store in separate section away from other vegetables. If stored well, they last for many weeks.
Vidalia brings delightful flavor to the recipes. Their preparing techniques are same as other onion varieties. Trim either ends using a sharp knife. Remove outer 2-3 layers of skin until you find fresh, thick white bulb. You can slice for rings or chop them into fine cubes depending upon the recipes.
|Vidalia cheese dip and chips.
Photo courtesy: Tam warner
Here are some serving tips:
Vidalia instantly appeals to those who like mild onion flavor and sweetness in recipes. They can be eaten raw, roasted, or fried to enjoy these mild Georgian onions.
Vidalia found use in almost any of food, be it raw salads, appetizers, sauces, vinaigrette, dips and main courses.
Chefs prefer them in classic Mediterranean dishes, especially in pizzas, burger, soups, tart, quiche, stuffing, etc.
Finely chopped vidalia complements well in stews, gravies, sauces, etc., particularly with fish.
They make excellent pickling.
Unlike red onions, mild nature of vidalia onions causes less irritation to mucosa and eyes. Vidalia contains less allyl sulfide gas while chopping or slicing them. Allyl sulfide is concentrated at the ends, especially near its bottom root system.
Soak trimmed bulb in cold water for a few minutes before you chop or slice it to minimize mucosal irritation. (Disclaimer).
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