A few snips of this little green is all it takes to perk up the flavor and visual appeal of any savory dish. Of course, if you love the mild oniony flavor and bright green color of scallions, go ahead and add a generous handful.
Scallions are simply the vertical green leaves that grow above ground early in an onion's development. Harvested before the onion develops its bulb, they're also called green onions, spring onions, Welsh onions, salad onions and Japanese bunching onions.
Cultivated since 3,500 B.C. and native to Asia, scallions were one of the earliest cultivated crops. While their versatility in cooking has long been appreciated, they've also been valued medicinally and are often mentioned in ancient Chinese herbals.
Today, scallions are grown throughout the world and in most areas of the United States, most notably California and Florida. They're a cool season vegetable and prefer sheltered, sunny areas and moist soil.
Surprisingly nutritious given their modest size, scallions are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. They're also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
Any variety of onion can be used for scallions. While some people distinguish scallions as a non-bulbing variety and spring onions as a bulbing variety, you'll find both bulbing onions (Allium cepa) and non-bulbing onions (Allium fistulosum) sold as scallions. (Those who distinguish scallions from spring onions identify spring onions by the small bulbs at the bottom of the stalk.) The cepas are milder than the fistulosums.
By the way, chives—which are grown for their leaves and are considered an herb—are a different species, Allium schoenoprasum. Chives are the smallest species in the onion family, and they're milder than scallions.
Use both the white base and the long green scallion stalks thinly sliced or julienned (or just snip them with kitchen scissors, right into your dish).
The fresh onion flavor of scallions enhances everything from appetizers—like Cracked Black and Blue Canapes, where their flavor melds delectably with blue cheese and stone ground mustard—to main dishes, like this cheesy Green Enchilada Pie. Scallions can also be featured more prominently as in this Grilled Scallions with Romesco Sauce appetizer.
Add them raw to dressings, dips, pestos and soups, like this easy-to-make Salsalicious Black Bean Soup. Scallions are a perfect add to salads, too. Their bright color plays against black and red in Black Rice and Almond Salad, and their mild oniony flavor is the perfect addition to Portobello-Asiago Pasta Salad. For unexpected flavor, try scallions in an apple slaw.
Include scallions in stir-fries, omelets, casseroles and cornbread. Use them to top baked potatoes, and add them to any pasta, grain, poultry or bean dish.
Scallions are indispensable in Asian cuisine. Partnered with cilantro, they're standard in Pad Thai, for example. And this Ginger Miso Soup with Arame wouldn't be the same—visually or flavorfully—without them.
Keep in mind that while adding scallions to raw dishes early on allows the flavors to meld, you'll want to add them to cooked dishes at the end of cooking, so they retain more of their flavor.
Scallions can be planted in the spring or at the end of summer and in the fall, so they're available year round.
Choose scallions with firm, bright green tops, free of brown or wet leaves. The smaller the base (bulb), the milder the scallion.
Store scallions wrapped in a paper towel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for up to five days. Keep them away from foods that will absorb their odor, like mushrooms.
To use, rinse the scallions, remove any brown outer leaves, and cut into small sections with a knife or kitchen scissors.
Scallions don't stay fresh long, so you'll want to restock your supply often. Or you can learn how to Grow Green Onions (Without a Garden).