To Market, To Market: Walla Walla Windfall
As I power-walked (ha!) past the Palisades Farmers Market yesterday morning, a sign at the first produce stand caught my eye: "Wala Wala Onions $3 a bunch."
Could that be? They smelled sweet, but they were no bigger than spring onions. Devoted onion fans know all about Walla Wallas. They're the pride of Walla Walla, Wash., and now's the season to get them. Walla Wallas are gigantic and wonderfully sweet, with such a low sulphur content and fewer pungent compounds that prepping them in the kitchen is a pleasure. (Why, that alone brings a tear to my eye that the WW's will not. You remember, of course, from a Food 101 column by Robert Wolke that when onions are cut or crushed, they release a sulfur-containing compound called Thiopropanal S-oxide.) You may be reading about Walla Wallas in a Food section article coming soon.
There's even a festival held in their honor. The WW's don't store particularly well, and I haven't ever seen much of them on the East Coast, let alone at a farmers market (they can be ordered by the box).
Haroun Hallack of Red Bud Organic Farm in Inwood, W.Va., confirmed that what his stand was selling was the real deal.
"We have grown Walla Wallas for about seven years," he said Sunday. "We plant them outside in the fall [as it's done mostly in Washington state] and let them over-winter. Last year they were the size of grapefruits," which is what you see in the accompanying photo. Haroun got the seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds.
This year was particularly tough, however. Haroun said the extended cold weather just about wiped out his whole WW crop. "It's a latitude-climate thing," he said. The onion bunches I got yesterday were the last of what he had to sell this summer. Normally, he says he'd have enough to last through August. (Red Bud will offer a variety of big white onion called Superstar beginning next week; the farm sells at the markets in Chevy Chase and Columbia Pike as well.)
Sliced wafer-thin, the onions were magic on sandwiches of cold leftover duck that we had grilled Saturday night (sitting on a doctored can of Foster's, a la Steve Raichlen recipe). But that's another story....
If you've seen Walla Wallas around the D.C. area, either in grocery stores or at farmers markets, now's your chance to be an onion hero.
-- Bonnie Benwick
The Food Section
June 15, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: To Market, To Market | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, onions
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