May 21, 2012

Eating Onion Flower Buds & Overgrown Scallions - & a Lentil Soup Recipe

These "overgrown scallions" have a distinctly different flavor.
Every spring, I discover the distinctive green shoots of onions coming up in the onion patch. They aren't supposed to be there. Perhaps some onions got choked out never grew shoots the previous year. Or perhaps I accidentally left a portion of the onion in the soil when I harvested them in the early fall. No matter. I've discovered if I leave those "hold over" onions in the ground, they become what I call "overgrown scallions:" Bigger than a scallion, but definitely not a full grown onion, these tasty veggies remind me of ordinary scallions or leeks. And their flavor has become my "secret ingredient" in many dishes, including lentil soup, which I share below.

Most people probably either pull out such "hold over" onions or leave them to grow full size. But in my experience, they never grow very big and are constantly growing flower buds. Onion flower bulbs should be cut off to redirect the plant's growth toward the onion bulb; you can remove the bulb and eat it (they taste onion-y), but if you remove the whole, young plant, I think you'll be pleased with your "overgrown scallions."

When I can, I pick these overgrown scallions just before cooking with them. But this year, I had quite a few, and I wanted to use them up before they got too big. So yesterday, I froze half and dehydrated the other half.

Onion flower buds are edible - and delicious!
Freezing & Dehydrating Onions

Freezing "overgrown scallions," regular scallions (also called green onions; both are merely young, underdeveloped onions), leeks, or onions is easy as can be. Just chop or mince them, toss them into freezer bags, and freeze them. When you want to cook with them, they break apart easily in your hands and don't need defrosting. (If you have trouble breaking them up, just bang the closed bag against a counter.)

Dehydrating onions is just as easy. Chop or mince; place a fruit roll sheet over the regular dehydrator tray (to keep the small pieces from falling through the holes in the tray), and dehydrate at 135 degrees F. until completely dry. I will warn you, however: Your house will smell onion-y during the dehydrating process! Store the dried onions in a glass container with a well-fitting lid in a cool, dry, dark location. In most instances, there's no need to rehydrate them, although you can soak them in water before using them in your cooking, if desired.

As for the onion flower buds - treat them just like you would scallions. Use them fresh and uncooked in salads, or saute, stir fry, or roast them. Or, freeze or dehydrate whole or chopped.

"Secret Ingredient" Lentil Soup

What You Need:
2 teaspoons olive oil or coconut oil
2 - 3 overgrown scallions, chopped (OR Walla Walla onions, leeks, 5 green onions, or 1 onion)
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
29 oz. beef stock (or 14.5 oz. beef stock and 14.5 oz. chicken or vegetable stock)
1/2 cup cooked lentils
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Medium skillet
Large spoon
Chopping knife

How to Do It:
1. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium high. Add the overgrown scallions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once in a while, for 3 minutes.

2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes.

3. Add lentils and cook until the soup is slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add vinegar and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 main dish servings.

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