What’s Fresh in February? Scallions
Know your onions – Brighten up your winter meals with a bundle of in-season scallions.
Story By Bailey Gilliam
Is it a scallion or a green onion? Which part of it does one use? Is the entire thing edible? What does a recipe mean when it calls for a cup of scallions? The questions surrounding this mild onion are plenty, but don’t fret. We did the research so you don’t have to. It’s finally time to conquer this confusing and in-season vegetable with confidence.
The confusing definition
Most of the time scallions and green onions are the same, but there can be a technical difference between the two. This difference comes down to what type of species the green onion is grown from, i.e., either a bulb-producing onion or a non-bulb-producing onion. Scallions are a part of the genus and species Allium fistulosum, which doesn’t form a bulb. Green onions, on the other hand, can be another name for scallions (like how rectangles can be squares), but they also can be their own thing. Green onions come from the genus Allium cepa, which are bulb onions. (You know, those red and white onion bulbs you picture when you’re told to chop an onion.) In this case it just means that your green onion was harvested early, before the bulb was formed. Most of the green onions you’ll find at the grocery store are Allium fistulosum.
Both green onions and scallions look exactly alike: they have long, hollow green stalks and small white stems. Both have a more mild taste than regular onions. But if a green onion is an Allium cepa, it might have a stronger flavor than a scallion (this is the only difference you might notice while cooking).
Like almost all fruits and vegetables, green onions are mostly water. A cup of green onions has only 32 calories, trace amounts of fat and zero cholesterol. It is packed with nutrients. Green onions have high amounts of vitamin K, which helps your blood clot and keeps your bones strong. There are high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage. It has folate, a vitamin your body needs to make DNA. There is a lot of fiber in scallions too, which helps you feel full, keeps your cholesterol levels down and may lower your chances for diabetes and heart disease. Green onions also have long been used to prevent infections and kill bacteria.
They grow up so fast
Green onions are best planted in the spring for a summer harvest. In climates where green onions grow well as perennials, they can be harvested year-round without replanting. They should be planted in well-drained soil in the sunniest spots of the garden or in containers. Space your plants 2-3 feet apart. Consistently water your plants; the soil should be moist but not soggy. Green onions are tender and mild when they are young. You can start harvesting as soon as the plants reach about 6-8 inches tall and are as wide as a pencil. Simply cut off the leaves you need for cooking. You also can harvest the whole plant by pulling it out of the soil, washing it and using as desired.
Types of green onion you can grow here
- Guardsman: This variety is ready for harvesting within 60 days.
- Nabechan: This Japanese variety is prized for its flavor.
- Red Beard: This one features purple-red stalks and is quick and easy to grow.
- Tokyo Long White: This perennial variety is flavorful and has long slender stalks.
Where to buy
- Farmers Market of Bluffton: Purchase locally grown scallions from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays in Old Town Bluffton.
- Roadside markets: Certified roadside markets such as Pasture Shed Farm, Lowcountry Produce and Barefoot Farms are freshest sources for scallions.
- Supermarkets: Our favorite spots for scallions are Publix, Whole Foods, Kroger and Harris Teeter.
Looks are everything
When buying green onions or scallions, look for brightly colored leaves with firm stems and roots still attached. Avoid the wilted, discolored or slimy-looking ones. Store them in a jar with a few inches of water in the refrigerator. You’ll want to ensure that the bulbs and roots are completely submerged in water. They should last 1-2 weeks in the fridge. To prepare green onions, wash them under cool water and remove any damaged and wilted parts.
Waste not, want not
You can use both the green and white parts of a scallion in your cooking. The white part of the scallion will have a slightly stronger flavor than the green part. In most recipes that call for green onions or scallions, you’ll use the white and pale green portions of the onion just above the root. But the darker green leaves are a delicious garnish for everything from soups to casseroles, without any cooking needed. Green onions or scallions also can stand in for fresh chives in any recipe. And If you want to use as much of your green onion as possible to reduce food waste (if you’re not composting food), learn how to sprout green onions from your scraps. You may never need to buy green onions again.
20-minute scallion noodles
Try this quick and easy scallion noodle recipe with broccoli and chili in garlic butter sauce. Top it with a fried or soft-boiled egg or stir in edamame for a well-balanced, simple weeknight meal.
3 (3-ounce) packs dry ramen noodles, without seasoning packs
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
3 cups small broccoli florets
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 whole bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
 Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare noodles according to package instructions. Drain water and set noodles aside.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, add broccoli and sauté until crisp-tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer broccoli to a bowl, and reduce heat to medium.  Add butter, two-thirds of the chopped scallions (reserve remaining for garnish), garlic, ginger and chili flakes. Cook until softened and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Stir in soy sauce.  Add cooked noodles to the skillet, along with sautéed broccoli and toasted sesame seeds. Use a set of tongs to toss noodles to coat in the sauce.  Divide noodles into bowl, and garnish with a fried or soft-boiled egg (or toppings of choice), along with remaining chopped scallions. Drizzle chili oil on top for an extra kick of spice, if desired.
Chinese scallion pancakes
Chinese scallion pancakes, also known as green onion pancakes or Congyoubing, are a famous and traditional Chinese street food and the ideal Chinese breakfast. Those crispy and aromatic pancakes are available all around China. You can make your own traditional Chinese pancakes without flying around the world.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup room-temperature water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
 Mix salt with all-purpose flour. Stir in hot water. Mix for a while and then stir in the room-temperature water and cooking oil.  Form a ball, cover it and let it rest for 10 minutes.  After resting, knead until very smooth, around 3-5 minutes.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape each portion into smooth, round balls. Cover and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chili oil
Chopped scallions and coriander, for garnish
 Mix all the ingredients well.
4-6 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 cups chopped scallions (green part only)
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder, optional
 Take one small ball and roll it out to a rectangle around 10cm long and 8cm wide. Brush some oil in the center part and then sprinkle Chinese five-spice powder, if using. Spread the chopped scallion in. Fold up the rectangle into a cylinder or snake shape. Repeat to finish all four cylinders.  Take one cylinder and roll to form a spiral or snail shape. Tuck the end into the dough. Repeat to finish all four.  Roll each spiral into a large round pancake.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan at medium heat. One at a time, fry each pancake until brown, around 2-3 minutes. Flip and fry for another 1-2 minutes.  Serve with dipping sauce.