Sure, we’ve tried them before but usually only buying 1 or 2 at a time.
Now, we had a 5 lb. bag which meant discovering new ways to enjoy them. (See recipe below).
But, first I wanted to learn more about WHAT makes these onions so special — and usually pricier than “regular” onions. And (as usual) wanted to share this knowledge.
NOW, I know that the Vidalia® Onion is Georgia's Official State Vegetable as ruled by the state legislature in 1990 AND is grown exclusively in a 20-county region in Georgia in a production area defined by state law and by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Moses Coleman is credited with “discovering” the sweet Vidalia Onion variety, which were first grown near Vidalia, Georgia in 1931. Coleman found that his onion crop was sweet, not hot and managed to get $3.50/50-pound bag (a big price then). Other GA farmers,unable to get a fair price for produce through the depression years, thought Coleman had found a gold mine. Soon, their farms were also producing the sweet, mild onion.
In the 1940's, the State of Georgia built a Farmer's Market in Vidalia. A small town at the juncture of some of South Georgia's most widely traveled highways. The market had a thriving tourist business; word spread as tourists gave the onions their now-famous name.
Soon Vidalia Onions were on shelves in local Piggly Wiggly and A & P grocery stores. Through the 1950s and 60s, production grew slow, but steady and was at 600 acres by the mid-1970s. A push was made for Vidalia Onions to be distributed nationwide. Onion festivals became an annual event in Vidalia and nearby Glennville, GA and production grew 10X over the next decade.
Georgia's state legislature passed the “Vidalia Onion Act of 1986” which authorized a trademark for “Vidalia Onions” and defined a 20-county production area. The crop is planted annually September through February with 70,000 plants produced on each acre. Onions are available from late April through mid-November.
In 1990, controlled atmosphere (CA) technology used in the apple industry was adapted for Vidalia Onions. Now, 20,000,000 pounds can be put in CA storage for up to six months, extending the sale of Vidalia onions through the fall and holiday season.
AND, we enjoyed them in this recipe. It was easy and delicious served with chicken (first night) and then with fish (second night).
Vidalia Onion Casserole
- 3 or 4 Vidalia onions, peeled, sliced thin and ringed
- 1/4 to 1/2 C butter
- 1/4 C sour cream
- 1 package Ritz crackers, crushed
- 1 C Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, grated
Spoon half into a greased 1-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with remaining onion mixture and crackers.
Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.