New mild onions offer great taste, long shelf life, uniformity

Professor Martha Mutschler and executive chef Steve Miller

Cornell researchers have developed new mild onions that will have chefs crying – tears of joy. Twelve years in development and with a couple years of testing to go, researchers say it will be just a few years before the mild locally grown onions are available to the public.

“These onions have a longer shelf life and still produce huge flavors; I see them as being a consumer’s dream,” said Steve Miller, Cornell Dining senior executive chef, who with a Wegmans supermarket executive chef has tested about a dozen of the experimental onion hybrids.

In general, current mild onions are watery and soft due to low sugar content (called low brix), which leads to a short shelf life and makes them mushy when cooked. Longer-lasting pungent onions are higher in sugar and caramelize when cooked, but reducing their bite requires more cooking, which also softens them.

The new Cornell onions “have the initial aroma and flavor of a mild onion, but they have a lot less water,” said Mike Washburn, executive chef at Wegmans. As result, they have a longer shelf life and stay crisper and intact when cooked in soup or chili or when grilled.

Martha Mutschler, professor of plant breeding and genetics, developed the mild onion lines and used the results of the chefs’ tests to inform selection of the three new hybrids of mild onions that were in expanded trials last year.

…The doubled haploid mild onion lines are unique in that they are totally inbred: “The seeds from each double haploid plant will produce identical plants” that are extremely uniform for any traits, said Earle.

…Mutschler is coordinating three phases of the project: …to develop hybrids adapted to New York state; …working with New York onion growers to field test the experimental hybrids; …working with executive chefs for culinary tests to determine potential marketing of the new onions. These phases are interrelated as seed companies and growers need to know consumer interest in the product before they take the risk of investing in producing a new crop.

Bravo! I am forever characterized as relying on my loyalty to Mediterranean recipes which invariably “start by taking an onion…”

3 thoughts on “New mild onions offer great taste, long shelf life, uniformity

  1. Joe Gunn says:

    Jean Leroux / ‘Frenchie’ (Louis Mercier): There’s no cheese like we make. Mes amis, you should have such a meal. You take a knife, so …here you have a little cheese and a little bread. Then you wash your throat with wine. Then a little cheese –
    Giuseppe (J. Carrol Nash): And a little onion.
    Frenchie: Good! A little onion. A little bread, a little wine… a little cheese, a little bread…a little wine, a little onion …a little cheese, a little bread –
    Jimmy Doyle (Dan Duryea): Lay off. You’ve had enough.
    Frenchie: I feel better. All this is no more. Six months ago, I’m back in my village, but I don’t know it, there is no cheese.
    ☛ “Sahara” (1943)

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