Faces of Gills Onions: Jessica Ortega

At Gills Onions, we’re proud to be family-owned. Our employees are an essential part of what makes our onions so great, and we’re excited to introduce them to you.

Jessica Ortega began working for Gills Onions when she was just 18 years old. Now, more than two decades later, she heads up our retail customers in customer service. She also services one of our largest foodservice customers.

So, we sat down and asked Jessica a few questions about her background, her role at Gills Onions, and what she has learned from her experiences.

What brought you to Gills Onions?

I started here when I was 18. I was just looking for a job, and I kind of stumbled upon Gills Onions. My first job was as a filer. Back then, everything we did was on paper, and someone needed to file all those documents and keep them organized.

But, I started paying attention to what the other employees were doing around me. Whenever I saw that someone needed help, I would offer a hand, and that exposed me to a lot of different roles in the company. Anytime I heard about new programs or trainings that were open to people learning, I signed up. I think I got the reputation of being willing to figure out whatever needed to be figured out, and that led to me advancing in the company.

Now, I’m an account manager, and I help lead the Oxnard sales office. I’m in charge of several key foodservice and all retail accounts. I oversee things for our outside sales reps and enter orders. I also do a lot of inventory control, letting production know what products they need to run to meet customer demand.

And I get to go to our annual food shows for retail, which is always really fun!

How have you seen Gills Onions change over the years?

Well the most obvious change is that I started out filing paper. Billing and orders were all taken by hand. I used to receive faxes! Now, so much is online or automated. It helps our processes move faster and with fewer errors, especially when it comes to inventory and tracking what products leave our facility and which customers they go to.

What hasn’t changed is the importance of human connection and customer service. I have customers that I have had for ten years, and I can tell you their order from memory. So, if I see an order come through that has an extra zero, I know something is probably not right. Technology doesn’t catch human errors, but humans can. I’ve also been able to experience our zero waste initiative first hand. That has been amazing to see. I remember they removed all the trash cans from our offices and replaced them with these tiny cans, like the size of a cup, and said that was all the waste we should be generating in a week. It has really put things in perspective. Now, we bring our own bottles and cups to work. That alone has cut out so much waste, and we know we are helping the environment. There is already too much trash in this world.

Why should someone make the switch to a value-added product like Gills Onions?

The biggest thing I tell people about making the switch to a value-added product is just that — you are adding value. You know when you’re ordering five pounds of onions that you are getting five pounds of onions.

Sure, you could buy a 50 lb sack for $8, but you’re not getting 50 lbs of usable product. You have to pay for the space on the truck, pay a person to chop the onions, and then, after all of that, at least a third of that 50 lbs is waste.

Instead, you can buy  20 lbs of Gills Onions and know you are going to have 20 lbs of onions ready to use.

What Gills Onions product do you love best?

As a working mom, I love our retail 3 lb bag of diced onion. Anything that cuts down on meal prep time and gives me more time to spend with my family is great. I grab out the onions I need, reseal the bag, and put it back in the fridge for next time.

Why do you love working for Gills Onions?

One of the things I really love about working for Gills Onions is our relationship with our owners. Steve Gill doesn’t have to be here, but every day you see him here going around from department to department asking people how their days are going and how they are doing. That has a huge impact on our work environment.

Having an owner that takes time out of his day — every day — to come in and speak with you is special. It doesn’t happen very often in other organizations. I think it just speaks to the level of care that Gills Onions puts into every level of its business, all the way from the office to the fields. That’s why our onions are so great.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

Tackling Supply Chain Struggles by Eliminating Waste

Across North America, the supply chain is facing an unprecedented crisis. Transportation rates – the cost of trucking products from place to place – are rising, while the availability of equipment and manpower is falling. What does this mean for the industry, and what can we all do to help?

Rising Rates, Labor Shortages, and Other Challenges

Every day, companies ship goods across North America. From coast to coast, border to border, this is how essential products, including the food you eat every day, get to you. But, transportation comes at a price. In April of 2020, a load moving from California to Boston cost a produce company $6,400. In April of 2021, the cost was $10,600.

In the past, it wasn’t unheard of that peak demand summer rates rose to the $10,000 mark, but never in recent memory have rates risen this much so early in the year. In fact, experts predict that transportation rates could be 35 to 50 percent higher this summer than in previous years.

Why the rapid spike? A perfect storm of less than ideal conditions post pandemic shares a majority of the blame. Supply chain interruptions have made it difficult for shippers to secure equipment and drivers. Health and safety concerns during COVID-19 as well as the availability of stimulus and increased unemployment benefits have encouraged some drivers to leave the business altogether.

While it’s hard to predict the outcome, many industry leaders think this domino effect will continue for quite some time. For the time being the reality is this: higher prices and tighter truck supply.

How Gills Onions Can Help

So, what can you do to help alleviate the stress put on the shipping industry and still get products to market? When it comes to fresh produce – especially onions – one of the biggest boosts producers and customers can give is eliminating waste.

There are more than 400 truckloads of bulk onions shipped and consumed in the United States every day. The equivalent of one out of every three truckloads is waste. That means that growers, shippers, and customers are footing the bill to transport thousands of pounds of garbage.

When you purchase Gills Onions, you are buying 100% usable product. Every pound of onions that is shipped to you can be used in your kitchen. It also means that precious trucks aren’t wasted moving useless freight.

Eliminating waste also translates into financial savings for every part of the supply chain. With fresh cut, value-added produce, no one is footing the bill for transporting thousands of dollars of unusable material.

Thinking About Long-term Sustainability

Dedication to eliminating waste doesn’t just save money. It also helps the environment. When shippers can do more with fewer trucks on the road, it reduces emissions and fossil fuel consumption, wear and tear on infrastructure, and more.

While we have to face the realities of the current shipping crisis, we can’t forget the long-term effects that our choices make on the future of our planet. As an industry, we can make choices that help out shippers and customers and also move us toward a more sustainable status quo.

We’re grateful for the wonderful team at Gills Freight that moves our raw products from the fields to our processing facility. Without them, it would be impossible to get millions of pounds of the world’s best onions to America’s tables. We’re also grateful for the men and women all over the country who keep the supply chain up and running. Even in challenging times, we know that by working together, we can continue to do what we all do best.

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department.

5 Tips for Getting Children Excited About Veggies

Though their bodies may be small, it’s no secret that children come with large personalities and big opinions. Those opinions can be especially strong when it comes to vegetables. Some kids can’t get enough, and others can’t get far enough away.

So, how do you help growing children not just eat but also enjoy their vegetables? There’s no secret formula, and at the end of the day, kids will be kids. But, there are things you can do to help children add healthy veggies to their diet, grow an appreciation for where their food comes from, and become more willing to try new foods each day.

(As always, we highly recommend onions.)

Learn Where Vegetables Come From

You can spark a child’s interest in vegetables by exploring how those beautiful veggies got onto their plate in the first place. Though you may have bought your produce at the grocery store, that isn’t where it came from. Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit a local farmer, and tour their fields
  • Take a trip to your nearest farmer’s market and chat with the sellers about how they grow their produce
  • Plant a garden with your children. Eating something you have grown together makes the food more exciting.
  • Don’t have room for a garden? Try growing herbs or a small vegetable plant in a window sill or planter box.

Make New Foods Fun

Children love routines, so trying new things can feel daunting and even a bit scary. Make trying new foods an exciting, fun and low-pressure experience. Consider using a few of these strategies:

  • Each time you go to the store, let your child pick one new vegetable to investigate. Plan several ways to prepare it.
  • Select a “new food of the week” that the whole family tries each day.
  • Conduct fun science experiments with healthy foods along with eating them. 
  • Make a “rainbow meal” using vegetables in every color of the rainbow.
  • Explore which vegetables can be delicious additions to smoothies, jellos, jellies, and more.

Delight Them with Dips

A dip can be a great way to encourage snacking on vegetables. Kids love to dip things in sauces, and the flavors of a dip can hide or mellow out the unfamiliar flavors in a new veggie. But, encourage your child to try a variety of dips and sauces. Ranch addiction is real, especially in young people. Introduce other low fat dressings, homemade vinaigrettes, and fun sauces like melted cheese fondue.

Prepare Things Together

There is more than one way to eat a vegetable. Make it a game to see how many different preparations for a veggie you can come up with, and then cook, roast, grill, puree, and chop together with your children. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use vegetables to make your own stock for soup.
  • Substitute vegetables like zucchini for noodles in pasta or lasagna dishes.
  • Finely chop vegetables to add to breads and pizza crusts.
  • Blend veggies into a smoothie, or juice them in a juicer.
  • Cook up a vegetable omelette.
  • Get creative with your favorite casserole.
  • Experiment with savory oatmeal.

Include Children in Meal Planning

The most important part of teaching children to love vegetables is letting them choose whether or not they will. Create a safe place for children to like what they like and dislike what they dislike. By making it ok not to like something when they try it, your kids will be more likely to keep on trying. If they try, they are bound to find something they enjoy.

Remember, children’s palates are still developing. Try mild flavors like carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce for younger eaters and slowly work your way up to stronger flavors. Include children in your meal planning, and respect their feedback.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more

Finding the Value in Value-Added Produce

Value-added produce is valuable. It seems like a no-brainer – after all, “value” is in the name. But there are many ways that value-added fresh produce can help businesses. From food safety, to reduced costs, to consistent quality, value-added is just that – super valuable.

Value-Add Number One: Save on Labor Costs

One of the most labor-intensive tasks in any commercial kitchen is prepping fresh produce. Prepping a raw bulk onion order is the perfect example. One 50 lb sack contains an average of 200 individual onions. That’s a lot of peeling, washing, and cleaning up – all before you even begin to dive into cutting.

That prep work takes manpower, and labor is a commodity that is getting increasingly harder to find. The United States is experiencing a nationwide labor shortage, and as minimum wage and other employee costs increase, retaining an adequate workforce is becoming more and more difficult. Value-added produce arrives sliced, diced, and ready-to-use, which saves businesses time and money. Instead of prepping onions, employees can dedicate time to other essential tasks.

Once you have a reliable workforce in place, you don’t want to lose them to injury. Cuts are the number one most common injury in commercial kitchens. Value-added fresh produce means less cutting and less risk.

Value-Add Number Two: Consistent Yield and Quality

When you purchase bulk vegetables, you can never be quite sure exactly what you are going to get. Did you know that a third of a sack of bulk onions is waste? That means you aren’t really getting 50 lbs of usable onion in that 50 lb sack.

On the other hand, when you buy value-added onions, you know exactly what you are going to get. Value-added onions arrive with consistent quality and consistent yield every time. When you buy a 30 lbs box of Gills Whole Peeled Onions, you get 30 lbs of ready-to-use onions.

Plus, the cost of value-added products doesn’t change by season or based on demand. That means you get the bonus benefit of consistent pricing, too.

Value-Add Number Three: Cleaner Kitchen

Unprepped, raw vegetables can bring unsanitary dirt and bacteria into your kitchen. Raw bulk onions are one of the worst offenders. Our testing shows that bulk onions can contain 100 to 1000 times more bacteria, yeasts, and molds than our value-added onions. The minute contaminants enter your kitchen, they can spread to other surfaces and foods.

Value-added produce increases your confidence that your kitchen, and the food leaving it, is clean and safe for everyone.

Ready, Get Set, Get Value-Added

At Gills Onions, we know that value-added fresh produce is one of the most valuable investments you can make. It improves nearly every aspect of foodservice, from the time ingredients arrive in your kitchen to the time someone eats your food. Value-added produce means less prep, less waste, more safety, and — if you’re using Gills Onions – more taste. So don’t wait. Start adding value to your business with value-added fresh produce today.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

Nature’s Ninja: How Onions Are Nature’s Most Powerful Vegetable

The age old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We can’t speak for the apple, but we certainly can put in a good word for the onion. 

An onion a day is the perfect way to add a flavorful and nutritious boost to the foods you eat every day. At Gills Onions, we salute the noble onion as nature’s ninja — a hardy, adaptable, and sustainable product that tastes great, too!

What Onions and Ninjas Have in Common

When the National Onion Association introduced the Nature’s Ninja mascot, it was easy to see why ancient martial arts and one of the world’s most ancient foods go together.

Onions are masters of disguise, built to survive even the harshest of elements. From the outside, an onion can seem unassuming, but it packs a powerful punch ready to defeat disease. The hard outer skin and pungent juices of the onion push back bacteria and bugs. Like a ninja, onions are one of the stealthiest food choices. You can easily “sneak” onions into a variety of meals and in a variety of forms. Sliced, diced, pickled, or pureed, onions are always delicious. 

And don’t forget about onions’ staying power. They are one of the most sustainable food choices, used for everything from electric power to animal feed to cleaning your BBQ grill. But one of the best things about the onion — its most powerful skill — is its ability to promote good physical health. 

Onions Are Always a Healthy Choice

Onions are low in sodium, low in calories, and fat free. They contain high amounts of essential nutrients including: 

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Their benefits range from acting as a salve to treating insect stings to being one of the key ingredients in cough syrups. Onions also contain powerful antioxidants that delay oxidative damage in human cells and tissues. These antioxidants also eliminate free radicals in your body and deactivate the harmful effects of chelate metal ions. 

Studies show that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Results from a 2019 Chinese study showed that eating onions could reduce cases of colorectal cancer by 79% when individuals consume 35 pounds of onions (or other allium vegetables like garlic, leeks, and scallions) each year. That may sound like a lot, but currently, the average American consumes about 22 pounds of onions annually. So, there’s not much farther to go. Another study conducted in Puerto Rico found that consuming onions and garlic reduced the risk of breast cancer. 

The University of Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin-Madison are currently researching the use of onions as a blood thinner and platelet inhibitor. Researchers have found that pungent onions spur antiplatelet activities in the body, which could be used to fight conditions caused by platelet aggregation like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks. 

The National Onion Association also reports that the organosulfur compounds responsible for the taste and smell of onions can reduce symptoms from diabetes and prevent inflammation from asthma. Including onion in your diet can even lower your cholesterol

In short, onions are always a healthy choice!

Working Together to Promote Onion Consumption

Onions are nature’s perfect vegetable. At Gills Onions and throughout the onion industry, we truly believe that statement. We’re excited to share more about how onions can elevate your health and your recipes. 

Look for the Nature’s Ninja mascot from the National Onion Association on social media, and spread the good news of good onions to your friends. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

Our Year-Round Supply

The Secret to Storing Onions 

At Gills Onions, we deliver the best and freshest onions to our customers year-round, but we only harvest onions from April to November. What do we do the rest of the year? The answer is storage onions. Storing onions is an art. It’s one that we’ve perfected over many years with our special onion-growing prescription. It starts with seed selection and ends with a delicious onion arriving in your kitchen. And if we’ve done our job correctly, you’ll never be able to tell which onions are storage onions and which are coming to you in-season. 

Our Unique Approach

Storing onions isn’t unique to our operation. Onions are only harvested certain months of the year, but society uses onions all year long. The only way to keep supplying the onions is to store them. You’ve probably been using storage onions your whole life and simply never realized it. What does make Gills Onions unique is how we approach the storing process. Storage onions have to stay fresh for around six months in cold storage. The storage season starts in September or October each year and extends all the way until April. That’s why seed selection and onion variety are so crucial. 

Gills Onions currently grows around a dozen varieties of onions. These varieties are selected for their flavor and longevity. Then, the seeds are matched with growing environments that will produce the best results from hot, more desert-like environments to fields in cooler regions like Bakersfield, King City, and the Salinas Valley. During the growing process, adjustments must be made for onions that will be spending time in storage. We pull back on the use of fertilizers and nitrogen to allow calcium in the onions to build a strong cell wall that will withstand natural cellular breakdowns that occur over time. At harvest time, onions are dug up and cured in the sun for 7 to 10 days. Curing is an essential part of the storage process. Onions that aren’t cured properly will decay quickly in storage. Bulk onion operations place unpeeled onions loose or in bags into a cold storage warehouse. Often, heat is used to dry out the onions and prevent decay, but this can mean sacrificing flavor. 

As a fresh cut processor, our onions are harvested, sorted and placed into bins before storing. The onions are also pre-cooled to gradually bring them down to storage temperatures. This gradual cooling keeps the onions from sweating and building up moisture that causes mold. In storage, the onions are kept at 34 degrees Fahrenheit and 75% humidity for optimum freshness. During the storage season, the onions are routinely checked for quality. Onions with internal or external decay, sun damage, or mechanical damage from the peeling process are removed from storage. The onions’ color can also be an indicator of freshness. Yellow or green centers mean an onion is reaching its point of longevity for storage.

Making a Great Storage Onion 

Some varieties of onions naturally stay fresh longer than others, and even the most subtle physical attributes, like shape, can affect the way an onion withstands the storing process. Storage onions should have single centers instead of multiple centers. Those with double or triple centers break down faster, and won’t stay fresh for long. We constantly evaluate and re-evaluate how each variety of onion is performing in storage. Like any crop, onion genetics change over time. If a variety we have loved is now producing onions with undesirable attributes – like multiple centers – we stop using it and replace it with a better-performing variety. Quality always comes first. 

Year-Round Quantity with Gills Onions Quality 

At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to providing the best onions at the best price. We take our responsibility to our environment, our customers, and of course, our onions, seriously. With our strict storage onions growing program, we can deliver the best tasting and freshest product year-round. Our customers get consistent quality, a consistent price, and consistent availability all 365 days of the year. 

But don’t take our word for it. Our onions speak for themselves. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Join the Double Your Impact Challenge

In the month of May, Gills Onions will match all donations up to $12,500 for every dollar donated to Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture (SEEAG) as part of SEEAG’s third annual Double Your Impact Challenge.

“The generosity of our friends at Gill’s Onions means SEEAG will receive as much as $25,000 to support our Farm Lab program,” says Mary Maranville, SEEAG’s founder and CEO.  “Farm Lab is a combination of classroom learning and farm field trips where students learn all about the origins of their food, particularly locally-grown food. The money raised will enable us to reach more students across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.”

A Mission to Teach and Share

Gills Onions is a long-time supporter of SEEAG’s agricultural education programming that has reached over 60,000 elementary school students since its founding in 2008. All SEEAG programs are 100 percent cost-free to schools and students.

“Teaching students about how food is grown and the benefits of eating locally-produced fruits and vegetables is one way to improve the health of our kids,” says Steve Gill, Gill’s Onions president and SEEAG board member. “Once kids learn about the farming and harvesting process and the benefits of fresh produce, they get excited about eating a more healthy diet.”

How You Can Help

All “Gill’s Onions Double Your Impact Challenge” matching donations go toward student learning:

Double Giving Levels:

  • $25 donation doubles to $50 – Print summer camp booklets for 100 students
  • $50 donation doubles to $100 – Pack farm-fresh resource bags for 200 students
  • $100 donation doubles to $200 – Send 200 students home with vegetable seedlings
  • $250 donation doubles to $500 – Fill up the SEEAG van for two weeks of summer camp travel
  • $500 donation doubles to $1,000 – Provide fresh snacks and materials for 800 students
  • $1,000 donation doubles to $2,000 – Covers the cost of six buses to bring students to Farm Lab

 For more information or to donate, visit www.seeag.org/doubleyourimpact.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

2021 PMA Foodservice

It’s 2021, and PMA Foodservice is back! Our team at Gills Onions is so excited to be attending our first major industry event for foodservice since the COVID-19 pandemic. Our industry has seen unprecedented changes and faced many unforeseen challenges over the past year, but we are ready to join with our partners … because foodservice is back in business. 

There’s no better way to celebrate how far we’ve come than PMA Foodservice. 

What You Need to Know About PMA Foodservice

PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo will be taking place July 21–22, 2021, in Monterey, California. This year, PMA is celebrating the resilience of the industry and reconnecting buyers and sellers at its 40th anniversary event. 

At PMA Foodservice, you’ll find attendees from every corner of our industry, including operators, distributors, and retail foodservice buyers; grower-shippers and processors (like Gills Onions); and even business solutions providers. It gives everyone a chance to connect, learn about innovations, and of course, do business. 

At Gills Onions, we are so excited to be back at PMA Foodservice doing what we do best: sharing the good news of fresh fruits and vegetables. We love the chance to show why we are the best at what we do and how we lead in sustainability, food safety, value-add, and flavor. We believe in doing business the old-fashioned way — with a handshake and a face-to-face conversation, building relationships that last. 

We’re Proud to Stand With Our Partners

We’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in foodservice as we enter the post-pandemic world. It’s no secret that 2020 was difficult, and Gills Onions wasn’t immune. Restaurants closed and reopened and closed again. New mandates and restrictions forced us to get creative and adapt how we do business. Businesses across our industry had to make difficult decisions to reduce staff, and at times, it seemed like things would never return to “normal.” 

Now, in 2021, some things are starting to look a bit more familiar. But, with a national labor shortage, reducing costs and labor in the kitchen is more important than ever. At Gills Onions, we are proud to offer a value-added product that saves kitchens time and money on labor and transportation costs. And, onions are one of the most commonly used products across foodservice. (It makes sense. They’re delicious and versatile.) 

We also took the time in 2020 to prepare our business for the next 40 years of service. We upgraded our technology to incorporate state of the art equipment that allows us to deliver products more quickly and more safely than ever before. 

PMA Foodservice is the perfect time to stand together and share an optimistic vision of the future. We all survived, and now it is time to thrive. 

Come Visit Us at PMA Foodservice

If you’ll be joining us at PMA Foodservice, stop by and say hello! Have a chat with our founder, Steve Gill, at booth 415. 

If you won’t be attending PMA Foodservice in person, you can still be part of the experience. Our team at Gills Onions will be online and ready to answer all your questions virtually during the conference. 

We can’t wait to see you!

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department.

What Makes Onions So Flavorful?

Onions. They are the king of the United Federation of Flavor — the mascot that says to cooks and eaters everywhere, “Welcome to flavor city.” They also pack a potent punch if they aren’t processed correctly (and even when they are). 

What gives these vital veggies their signature tastes and smells? And how can you get the best of their flavor? Let’s dive in.

The Secret to Flavor? Science.

Think about an onion. What does it taste like? What does it smell like? Here’s the thing: Whatever you answered, you’re probably right. 

Onions come in hundreds of varieties. They can be sweet or sour, soft or crisp, tangy or dripping with umami. The intensity of an onion’s smell and flavor also depends on its freshness. If you’ve ever picked an onion fresh out of the soil, you may have been surprised to find it didn’t have a smell. So, what is going on? 

Onions have a unique chemistry with molecules that contain a whole lot of sulphuric compounds. Sulphur is responsible for those pesky tears that pop up anytime you chop an onion, but it is also responsible for flavor and odor. The scientific name for this group of compounds is thiosulfinates. 

But here’s the really interesting thing. A fresh, raw onion doesn’t have these molecules. They form after an onion is damaged, like when you chop, slice, or dice. Cutting an onion breaks up cell structure and releases the molecules. Enzymes come into contact with the molecules and create the thiosulfinates and their characteristically strong smell, all in 30 seconds or less.

How intense the smell and flavor of your onion is depends on its variety, or cultivar, and how much sulfur was in the soil. Spring onions harvested in the early spring tend to be more mild, while storage onions harvested in the late summer and early fall tend to be more pungent.

How Does Cooking Affect Onion Flavor?

How you prepare onions will affect the flavor. Since slicing and dicing releases the odor and flavor, the more finely you chop an onion, the more flavorful it will be. On the other hand, a process like boiling an onion will break down the enzymes that spur the chemical reactions creating a less pungent flavor. 

Different levels of heat can control levels of flavor. Heat spurs a range of chemical reactions that all interact with the fundamental make-up of the onion. The longer the cooking time, the more mild and savory an onion becomes. 

Caramelizing or sauteing onions on low or moderate heat causes a reaction between the sugars and the proteins. The onions turn brown, the sugars come free, and the sulphuric compounds react over and over until the pungent flavor is gone and the sweet sugar flavor remains. 

The Gills Onions Promise

At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to creating onions that stay fresh longer and have the best flavor you can find. From the seeds we grow to the soil we grow them in to the way we slice and dice the onions, to the packaging we use to keep them safe until they arrive in your kitchen, flavor is always top of mind. 

We hope you enjoy them.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Get Ready to Fall in Love with Mirepoix

Our Gills Onions retail products are designed to save you time and work in the kitchen. That’s why we are so excited to announce a new addition to our product line: Mirepoix. 

Mirepoix is an aromatic mix of onions, carrots, and celery. Any great chef knows that Mirepoix is the base for hundreds of delicious recipes, and now home chefs like you can reap the benefits, too, without all the prep work. 

How Do I Use Mirepoix?

Mirepoix is one of the most versatile and essential vegetable blends. It’s a third onion, a third celery, and a third carrot. It can be added to or serve as a base for sauces, soups, and marinades. It makes a killer roux. It can accompany braised meats. You can toss it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker for added flavor to just about anything you’re whipping up. Oh, and it’s really tasty in casseroles.

So, why don’t more people use Mirepoix in their everyday cooking? Because it is a pain to prepare. That barrier goes away with our pre-diced, pre-mixed Mirepoix blend. 

Here are a few fun recipes that call for Mirepoix to get your creative juices flowing: 

Less Chopping, More Enjoying

During the pandemic, so many people found their passion for cooking delicious meals at home. The only thing that makes fresh, home cooked food even better is when your vegetables are prepped and ready to go. Spend less time chopping, dicing, and slicing and more time enjoying food with the ones you love. 

Oh, and don’t forget that eliminating the need to chop up all those vegetables also eliminates the chance of knife injuries in your kitchen. Definitely an added bonus.

Find Gills Onions Products in Your Local Store

While you’re grabbing some delicious Mirepoix off the shelf, check out our other fabulous retail products (all now with new resealable film!): 

  • Diced Yellow Onions – Use to spice up any recipe that calls for chopped or diced onions. 
  • Diced Red Onions – Add something extra to soups, chilis, and sauces, or use as a colorful condiment. 
  • Diced Celery and Onions – The perfect blend for potato salads, tuna salads, and holiday stuffings and casseroles. 
  • Diced Pickled Onions — A tasty, tangy addition to salads, burgers, sandwiches, and cooked dishes. 

So, get out there, and take our new Mirepoix (and maybe a few more tasty pre-prepped products from above) for a test drive. We can’t wait to hear what you think!

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Our Quest Toward Zero Waste

When you spend your days peeling and processing onions, you know that waste is inevitable. But, at Gills Onions, we also know that sustainability is key to preserving our fields and the quality of our products for future generations. 

Since Gills Onions began in 1983, we’ve passionately explored new technologies and methods to help us maximize conservation and efficiency in every area of our business. 

Our mission is to be fully aware of the impact our business has on the environment and to hold ourselves accountable. We do this by continuously making and achieving measurable sustainability goals in each organizational and operational level of our business. 

Our Zero Waste Facility 

In 2009, Gills Onions made a goal to achieve zero waste company wide. We would work to maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption, and ensure that our products were made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. 

This was an ambitious goal. In 2007, our home state of California sent 39.6 million tons of waste to landfills, 16% of which was food matter. At our own facility, about 37% of the onions processed cannot be used by customers and are discarded as waste along with leftover onion peelings. 

In the past, we trucked this waste to the onion farms where it was worked back into the soil. But this practice wasn’t truly sustainable. It started proving problematic for soil conditions and cost $400,000 annually to transport the waste, not to mention the emissions caused by our trucking fleet.

We knew there had to be a better way to run our business — from the fields to the processing facility and even in our offices. 

We began by creating a comprehensive inventory of all the waste streams in our business. We then developed strategies to help us move toward diverting 100 percent of our waste into productive outlets. 

We track all of our resource usage from the types of fuel we use to electricity and water. We also keep a detailed inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and report it yearly to The Climate Registry. 

At our processing facility, a wastewater treatment plant process 180,000 gallons of production wastewater per day. Ultimately, 100% of this water will be purified and recycled back to our facility for reuse. We’ve also increased the fuel efficiency of our entire fleet of trucks, saving 90 thousand gallons of fuel annually.

And by converting 99% of our conventional irrigation methods to drip irrigation, Gills Onions has reduced water consumption by 40%. That means we reduce the risks of soil erosion and conserve enough water each year to meet the annual needs of 2,900 households in our home state of California.  

Through the implementation of wide-range recycling programs and the expansion of waste reduction initiatives, our company’s waste diversion reached 99.2% in 2018. 

Converting Waste to Onion Power 

A highlight of our zero waste efforts is Onion Power

Our plant can process up to a million pounds of raw onions each day, creating an average of 150 tons of onion waste.

By collaborating with innovators across the United States over several years, Gills Onions was able to develop the Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS), which converts onion waste into ultra-clean, virtually emissions-free electricity. 

The AERS provides 100% of the base electrical load for our processing plant, the equivalent of enough power to supply 460 homes for an entire year. It also eliminates 14,500 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year. 

The Benefits of a Zero Waste Mindset

Working “green” positively impacts our employees, our customers, our industry, and our environment. It also benefits our bottom line. 

We’ve been able to reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, improve our resource management, and create greater energy independence as we pursue a zero waste facility. And we aren’t the only ones who benefit. 

Our customers see profit from a greener, less wasteful supply chain as well. They also enjoy increased transparency on how their onions are grown and processed and the impact those tasks have on the environment. 

As Gills Onions has pursued zero waste initiatives, we’ve been able to share our expertise and innovations with fellow industry players and government bodies. Our technology has helped the state of California produce substantial quantities of combined power and heat from renewable food processing waste products. Widespread use of “waste-to-energy” conversion technology is replacing significant amounts of electricity and natural gas use statewide. 

The real winner in our sustainability journey is — of course — our environment. We’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions by no longer hauling waste off-site for composting. We’ve also improved air quality by reducing the use of conventional fuel supplies and replacing other polluting energy sources with clean alternatives. 

By demonstrating responsibility and leadership, we hope to encourage environmentally-friendly, waste-reducing initiatives in our nation and in our industry. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Why Does Cutting Onions Make You Cry?

Who hasn’t been brought to tears by onions? We certainly have — but that’s because we love them so darn much. For many other people, it’s because they decided to cut one open. And, for just as many people, the reason why cutting into that sweet, sweet onion sets the waterworks flowing is a mystery. 

Let us solve it for you. 

It’s Not an Emotional Reaction — It’s a Chemical One

Let’s start by reviewing a little onion anatomy. At the end of the day (and at the beginning as well…and really through the entire day, actually) an onion is a bulb. It grows under the ground. You know what else hangs out under the ground? Little critters who love to nibble on bulbs, like voles, moles, and groundhogs, oh my!

So, onions have a defense mechanism to protect them from all those unwanted nibbles. Enter chemical reactions. 

When the skin of an onion breaks, whether from a nibble or your favorite kitchen knife, it begins to release a combination of enzymes and sulfenic acid. When these two compounds come together, they create an extremely irritating gas called propanethial S-oxide. When this gas is released, it evaporates quickly and finds its way to — you guessed it — your eyes. When it hits the water that covers the surface of your eyes, it turns into sulfuric acid.

Now, here’s the thing. Just like the onions have a defense mechanism to keep them safe, so do your eyes. When the nerves in your eyes detect the sulfuric acid, they know they need to flush it out. Cue the tears. 

So, What’s an Onion Lover to Do? 

There are a lot of different ways that people say you can help yourself out in the onions and tears department. How effective these strategies are depends a lot on your own genetics, on the onion you’re cutting, and the universe in general. 

  • Put a barrier between you and that nasty onions gas by slicing onions under clear plastic or glass. 
  • Cut onions under a vent or fan to help disperse the gases away from your eyes. 
  • Freeze the onion before cutting it. 
  • Cut the onion under the water. 
  • Wear goggles. 
  • Cook the onion, then slice it. Cooking deactivates the enzymes.
  • Rinse your eyes after cutting to help flush out the sulfuric acid. 
  • Use a cold compress or even cucumber on your eyes to reduce the irritation after cutting (another vegetable to the rescue!).
  • Try clearing your eyes with some eye drops. 

The only sure fire way to not cry when cutting onions is to not cut them in the first place. 

Let Us Cut Your Onions for You

If you’re still chopping onions, it’s a crying shame! Why not let Gills Onions do the hard work for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a chef whipping up your signature dish or a home cook experimenting with a new recipe. Our sliced and diced, ready-to-use, value-added products save time — and tears — while delivering the best onion flavor there is. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.