Vidalia onions, the sweet Southern staple, begin shipping today – the official pack date – bringing their unique flavor to home cooked meals across the country.
An annual rite of spring, Vidalia onions are hand-cultivated by 50 registered growers in 20 southeastern Georgia counties and are only available for a short period of time each year. “With more people cooking at home today, onion sales have increased dramatically, and that may impact the availability of Vidalia onions around the country,” said Aries Haygood, the newly elected chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committee, who noted that 9,400 Vidalia onion acres were planted for the season.
According to recent figures from IRI, onion sales increased by 60 percent mid-March alone and are expected to remain steady as consumers stock-up at grocery stores and cook more meals at home, reversing decades-long category trends.
Virginia Willis, well-known chef, James Beard Award recipient and author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South, said that in these trying times, home-cooked meals are providing more than basic nutrition. “One of the hallmarks of southern cooking is not only the notion that food can feed the spirit, but also the sheer practicality with which we approach every meal,” said Willis. “Many of the best traditions of Southern cuisine were born out of necessity.”
Willis recommends that families look to some of these southern traditions for inspiration: “Southern cooks are true experts at making beautiful use of ingredients available around them. They have always leaned into creativity with seasonal, local, tasty foods that are efficient to feed the whole family. Vidalia onions are an important part of that tradition.”