Life Is Sweet for Walla Walla Onions
Date: June 6, 2007 Section: Food
by Carrina Stanton
for The Chronicle, Centralia, WA
It's not often that people love something that makes them cry. But apparently, the state was able to see past its teary eyes and embrace the Walla Walla Sweet Onion as its official state vegetable. The humble bulb was officially signed into that historic spot April 20 by Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Harvest and shipment of the Walla Walla to stores throughout the state will begin within the next two weeks. With their trademark thin, golden papers and creamy sweet insides, Walla Wallas at their best have been described as an onion so sweet, it can be peeled and eaten raw like an apple.
"They're great. They're nice and sweet and they're perfect to slice and put on top of a burger. They're the perfect summer accompaniment," said Heidi Peroni, who farms 85 acres in Curtis with her husband, Mike.
The Peronis, owners of Boistfort Valley Farms, have been growing sweet onions from Walla Walla seeds as one of their nine varieties of onions, shallots and leeks for at least 10 years. The Peronis don't over-winter their crops, so their sweet onions are ready for harvest in July or August, but the roll out seems to have a similar hype as the crates of glowing sweet onions that will soon be arriving from the Eastern half of the state.
"Usually as soon as they're ready, people are really excited for them," Heidi Peroni said.
The particular sweet onions at Boistfort Valley Farms technically cannot be called Walla Walla Sweet Onions because that name is protected for onions grown solely in Walla Walla Valley of Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon. True Walla Wallas are grown by only about 40 growers on about 1,200 acres. Still, Mike Peroni said choosing Walla Walla seeds over other varieties for their sweet onions was a conscious choice in promoting regional agriculture. Boistfort Valley Farms grows about 120 types of produce, herbs and flowers for its 250 consumer supported agriculture members and two farmers markets, many of which are products that originated in Washington such as the Walla Walla onions and the Ozette potato.
"We like produce with a story and if it's regional, that's even better," he said.
Some Walla Walla Sweet Onion recipes from the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee:
Walla Walla Sweet Onion Flower
- 2 Walla Walla Sweet Onions
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- non-stick vegetable cook spray
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking pan. Peel onions, cut bottom level but leave core intact. To make flower design, cut onion from top toward bottom as if you were going to cut it in half, stopping 1/2 inch from bottom. Repeat five times in different sections of the onion to create "petals." Carefully loosen petals by rapping the onion lightly on the work surface. Place flour, salt, pepper, oregano, paprika and mustard in small bag. Spray petals with cooking spray. Put one of the onions in the bag and gently shake to coat. Remove the onion and pat off the excess flour mixture. Place in prepared pan and repeat with second onion. Spray coated onions once again with cooking spray to aid in browning. Bake for 35-40 minutes until tender. Serve hot.
Recipe by Susan Fowler Volland, food stylist and food editor.
Walla Walla Sweet Onion Cucumber and Tomato Salad
- 4 medium tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
- 2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 medium Walla Walla Sweet Onion, cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 pound goat cheese
In a large glass serving bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Mix together vinegar, olive oil, dill and parsley. Season to taste. Toss vinegar-oil mixture over vegetables. Cover. Refrigerate one hour to blend flavors. Toss again just before serving and blend in goat cheese.
Recipe by Joan Deccio Wickham, food stylist and culinary instructor.
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, Centralia, Washington. Reprinted with permission.