Onions : which varieties for which use in the garden ?

Onion (garlic onion) or onion, is an easy-to-grow herbaceous plant. There is a wide choice of onions, and in France a good forty varieties are grown. But the European catalog lists a thousand. Some are less known than others, yet they deserve just as much to integrate our daily diet. It is in any case very interesting to look into the specificities of onions in order to select those that will be grown in the vegetable garden according to their use and of course the taste preferences of the whole family. Caliber, color, flavor, sugar content, to be eaten in soup, as an accompaniment, stuffed, glazed, grilled… Whether raw, cooked or marinated, this vegetable is essential. Here is a brief overview of the onion in all its glory, whether consumed as a vegetable or as an herb.

Onions to grow: the different colors

The onion comes in different colors.

  • yellow onion : it is the most commonly grown in our country. The yellow onion harvest takes place in August.
  • beige onion : more frequently called sweet onion, it displays a large caliber and a slightly flattened shape. It is similar to the yellow onion.
  • white onion : it is the early onion or new onion that we find with happiness on the stalls of our markets from March until the end of July.
  • Red or pink onion : relatively common, it is harvested from September.
  • brown onion : with a very pronounced taste, it is the type of onion which keeps particularly well and this is fitting because we always like to have some on hand in winter.

About the spring onion nicknamed according to the regions green onion, winter onion or liveit is l’Allium flutes. Cet unripe green onion is a must in the kitchen, to be grown with other varieties of onions.

If you want to plant different onions in the garden, distinguishing their color is not enough to make your choice. It is also necessary to know how each variety of onion can be used in cooking in order to preserve its taste qualities.

Choosing the right varieties of onions to grow in the vegetable garden according to their use

It would be a shame to fall into monotony by limiting yourself to a single variety of onion, given the many variations that can be grown in the vegetable garden. To help the undecided to make their choice, here is a table which indicates the color of the most famous varieties, the texture of the flesh as well as the flavor, and specifies some possible uses. The gardener can refer to it to refine his selection.

onion type

Examples of varieties


Skin / Flesh

Texture / Flavor


Bell-type onion or pearl onion (small size)

It’s a hasty onion

Very hasty Vaugirard,

Blanc de Berletta,

White Bell 1is,

Silvery white, purple or yellow/white

Fondant / delicate, very soft

The smaller ones are used marinated in vinegar or frozen. The others are to be roasted in a cooking juice or pan-fried to accompany veal, rabbit, turkey, roast pork… All are eaten whole.

spanish onion

Rocodoro Onion,

Sources of Ebro onion,

Copper yellow / white

Juicy/ soft, sweet

Raw, perfect in salads, sandwiches, cooked to garnish a sauce or flavor a recipe.

Yellow onion or straw onion

Stuttgart Giants, Lorenzo F1,

Alisa Craig,

Onion from Lézignan, Mulhouse, Cévennes, Paille des Vertus, Athos, Toli…

Blond / creamy white

Fondant / assertive flavor while being quite sweet, sometimes chestnut taste (for the Cévennes variety)

Cooked, mashed, grilled, in soup, in pie, special mention for the sweet onion from the Cévennes, perfect for preparing a chutney

Red onion

Onion from Toulouges (eastern Pyrenees),

Brunswick Red,

Red Baron,

of Roscoff,

True red / white with purplish red streaks

Fleshy and juicy / gently sweet spicy

Preferably raw, in a salad, in a hamburger. May take on a slight bitterness after cooking.

white onion

Hasty Paris, Snowball,

Greenish white / white

Juicy and tender / soft and sweet

Consume immediately after harvest, raw or cooked

Spring onion (green onion)


White swollen part, green tubular leaves

Crunchy / delicate, soft and sweet,

The white part is used like an onion and the leaves like fine herbs.

brown onion

Selestat type,

Auxonne type,

Light brown to ocher / white

Creamy / pronounced taste,

Sliced ​​then sautéed in a pan, grilled in the oven, in the sauce.

If you prefer sweet onions, you can choose to plant the following varieties: Wallawalla, Maui sweet, Vidalia. These are large onions that are as good raw as they are cooked. They are integrated into summer preparations whether sandwiches for aperitif, salads or hot dishes. The sweet onion cooks well on the plancha and on the barbecue.

When buying onions to plant, do not hesitate to ask an adviser, usually available to customers in garden centres. Many people want to take advantage of expert advice on the spot in order to more clearly identify the varieties of onions according to their flavor.

Note that the red onion is suitable for the palates of young and old alike because it is undeniably sweetest of all. Finally, for the moment grown mainly in the States, the sunions are onions that don’t make you cry. Surely many gardeners will be tempted to reserve a special place for them in the vegetable patch…

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