Green Onion is a bit of a generic term. It can be used to describe both "Spring Onions" -- the very young stalks of any onion, which can be harvested in the spring and eaten, and Green Onions proper. Green Onions proper are also known as Welsh onions, and actually are different from regular onions -- they will never develop the big round bulb that we normally think of as being an onion, which Spring Onions will, and Green Onions proper grow in bunches. The British confuse things by mostly calling all Green Onions a Spring Onion; North Americans confuse things by not differentiating between Spring Onions and Green Onions.
In Britain and in some parts of North America, some people call a Green Onion a Spring Onion; while to others, a Spring Onion is a very young Green Onion with a bulb that has only partially started forming. In Australia, Jamaica, and in New Orleans, Green Onions are called shallots. And, all over the place, to many people Green Onions are either young leeks, the tops of onions, or the stems of shallots.
So, what have you bought? A Spring Onion or a proper Green Onion proper (aka Welsh or bunching onion)? If you really are curious, look at the bottom of the green stalks where they start to turn white. If the stalk has a flat side, so that a cross-section of it would look like a letter D, it is a Spring Onion. If it is completely round, it is a proper Green Onion. And I bet you never thought to look.
We mostly only know the green variety of proper Green Onions, but in fact in the same family there are several different cultivars:
- Red: Santa Clause, Red Beard, Red Welsh (aka Early Red or Ciboule Commune Rouge.) The Red Welsh cultivar has stalks that are a bit coppery coloured, 2 to 3 stalks per cluster;
- White: White Lisbon, Winter Over, Evergreen White Bunching (aka Evergreen Hardy Long White or Nebuka.) The white ones in general are more cold hardy. The Evergreen White Bunching produces almost no onion bulb at all, but is very frost-hardy;
- Thicker stalks: Shimonita;
- Larger onion bulbs: Yoshima.
Slugs will go crazy over Green Onions, but other wildlife such as deer or grazing animals tend to avoid them. Green Onions shouldn't be planted near legumes or alfalfa. If not harvested, Green Onions proper will flower by July. All the flowers have both male and female parts, but the plants still can't pollinate without insects. The flowers can be eaten raw in salads.
Green Onions have long green hollow stems and very small bulbs just slightly wider than the stems. Both the stems and the onion are eaten; both are mild enough to eat raw. Chopped, they provide a great raw garnish. A quick chop takes off the roots, and the rest of the entire vegetable can be used. Green Onions are also good for cooking with.
Choose Green Onions with crisp stalks and firm bulbs at the end.
And by the way, it really doesn't matter whether you've brought home a Spring Onion or a Green Onion. There's no practical difference in the kitchen.
Wash and dry with paper towel or a clean cloth. Trim roots off white bulb end. Remove and discard any wilted green stalks, then crop about 2 inches (5 cm) off the green stalks. The rest of the entire vegetable can be used. Chop further as needed.
1 chopped = 2 tablespoons
In the plant's botanical name, "fistulosum" means "tubular".