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Vidalia onions: nature's first sweet gift of the spring harvest


Vidalia onions lead the spring harvest of delicate sweet onions.

All of the early sweet onions are low in the bitter, strong acids that make regular onions produce tears and killer breath.

But Vidalia onions (pronounced vy-DALE-yuh) are the sweetest, with an average sugar content of 12.5 percent. That's sweeter than Coca Cola.

Vidalias also have a high water content that gives them a juicy, rich texture. Vidalias are grown from the same hybrid plant as other onions. The secret of Vidalias is not the onion but the perfect combination of loamy soil and climate.

The farmlands surrounding Vidalia, Ga., get just the right amount of rainfall to mature these onions.

Because Vidalias are high in moisture, they spoil quickly. Select bruise-free, firm onions with dry skins. Avoid any that seem soft or wet. Store onions in a cool place with good ventilation. Refrigeration will slow the metabolic rate, but ventilation is necessary to prevent mold.

Cooking preparations must be delicate to preserve their sweetness.

Roasted Vidalia onions and rosemary

4 jumbo Vidalia onions, peeled, ends removed

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup rosemary leaves, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

1 recipe Mustard Vinaigrette

4 sprigs fresh rosemary for garnish, or chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim flat the core end of eac

onion. Place onions core-side down on cutting board. Slice down partially through the onion with the knife to just about 1/2 inch from the board. Repeat this cut with parallel cuts until you have worked your way across the onion. Rotate the onion 90 degrees and repeat, taking care to keep the onion intact. Place finished onions in a baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil and rosemary. Drizzle the mixture across and into the onions. Sprinkle generously with pepper. Season with salt to taste.

Place on the lower rack of oven, cooking until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Transfer to the center of serving plates. Spoon vinaigrette over the onions, garnish with sprigs of rosemary or chives and serve.

Mustard vinaigrette

2 tablespoons grained mustard

2 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar, or substitute aged sherry vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons snipped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small bowl combine mustard and vinegar. Slowly add oliv oil while continuously whisking. Stir in the chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 3/4 cup.

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