Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking
Using and Preserving the Other Alliums
by National Gardening Association Editors
Scallions or green tops are one of the first vegetables ready for harvest each spring. It's a real pleasure to go into the garden and pull them. Good scallions are young, green and tender and usually have several inches of white skin above the roots. They are either grown from a variety of bulbless onion or they are green tops - thinnings from the entire onion family: garlic, shallots and leeks as well as onions.
Scallions keep a few days if wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator, but they're best if picked the day you use them. To prepare scallions, wash them and cut off the roots. Peel off the outside layer of skin and cut off the top green tail, leaving four- to six-inch scallions. The green tails are good as garnish. They're excellent with sliced tomatoes, on baby boiled potatoes, fish, egg dishes or salads.
To dry scallions, cut them crosswise, tops and all, into 1/8- to 1/4-inch bits. Put the chopped scallions into a cheesecloth bag and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Plunge the bag in cold water, then take it outside and shake it to dry. Put the scallions in a single layer on dehydrator screens, and when thoroughly dry, seal them tightly in containers. When using dried scallions in dips or spreads, let them stand in the mixture for two hours before serving.
To freeze scallions, simply chop them up and put them in small, plastic containers and place them in the freezer. As with onions, use frozen scallions within a month or so for best flavor.
Chives are chopped finely and used as garnish and in spreads, dips and eggs. Their flavor gets stronger the longer they're mixed with cottage cheese or cream cheese, so only combine them at serving time.
To cut chives, use scissors and trim a few of the stalks to a height of one inch rather than cutting the tips of the whole plant. When they grow back to six or seven inches, they're ready to be trimmed again.
The queen of the sauce onions, the shallot imparts a delicate flavor to sauces somewhere between garlic and onion. Shallots should not be browned, as they turn bitter. Three to four shallots are the equivalent of one medium-sized onion; they're rarely eaten alone, but are used regularly in cooking. However, pickled shallots are special. Shallots are cured, dried and stored in the same way as onions.