Chinese New Year: A Time to Celebrate Agriculture

The start of a new year is a time celebrated by countries and communities around the world as a time of renewal and reflection, but did you know that the new year also has many ties to agriculture? The Lunar New Year, often referred to as “Chinese New Year,” is the perfect example. (And onions even have a part in the celebration!)

The History of the Lunar New Year

In China, the Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year. China’s agrarian culture has thrived through the centuries, and the start of a new year was a time for farmers to rest from their work and celebrate.

The New Year marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the time that Chinese farmers considered the start of a new calendar cycle. They cleaned their fields and homes and prepared to plant new seeds. Friends and family traveled to be together and celebrate the start of a new year of prosperity and growth, both metaphorical and physical as new crops were planted. 

Lunar New Year celebrations begin on the new moon that occurs between the end of January and the end of February and last 15 days. On the seventh day of celebration, farmers traditionally displayed their produce. Historically, the new moon was a marker for when farmers should begin to plant crops. Plant too early and crops may fall victim to a late frost. Plant too soon and crops could miss out on essential spring rains. Hence, the “Lunar” New Year. While western calendars are based on the Earth’s orbit around the sun, the Chinese New Year is based on the moon’s orbit around the Earth.

The Year of the … What?

Another tie to agriculture is the Chinese zodiac. Each new year is marked by one of 12 zodiac animals and is said to carry the characteristics of that animal:

  • Rat – adaptable, stable, hardworking
  • Ox – diligent, strong, determined, dependable
  • Tiger – powerful, bold, wild
  • Rabbit – tender, patient, polite
  • Dragon – lucky, adventurous, brave
  • Snake – warm-hearted, passionate, perceptive
  • Horse – active, energetic, independent
  • Sheep – mild, considerate, thrifty
  • Monkey – intelligent, innovative, sociable
  • Rooster – hardworking, courageous, resourceful, observant, talented
  • Dog – kind, loyal, cautious, honest
  • Pig – generous, compassionate, diligent

The animals repeat in 12-year cycles. The year 2021 is the year of the Ox, a fitting tribute to the resilience and determination of farmers around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

New Year, New Food

Food is one of the most important components of Chinese New Year traditions and celebrations. Popular foods include sweet sticky rice cakes, noodles, dumplings, peanuts, and fish. 

While many traditional recipes include scallions over white or yellow onions, onions like those we grow at Gills Onions do make an appearance. And, many recipes can be adapted and spiced up with a dash of fresh onion. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Ginger-Onion Whole Steamed Fish – While this recipe focuses on green onions, finely chopped white or yellow onions stuffed into the fish or incorporated into the sauce add a nice depth of flavor. 
  • Long Chinese New Year Noodles – This take on the many noodle dishes served during Chinese New Year celebrations highlights fresh vegetables like mushrooms, bok choy, and bamboo shoots. Add in some onion and your other favorite vegetables, too. 
  • Szechuan Hot Pot – Every region of China has their own take on a hot pot meal. Adapt your hot pot to match favorite ingredients, like onion, from your home. 
  • Fortune Pockets – These dumplings combine meat, vegetables, and spices, and they can be steamed or deep fried. Add onions to your fillings and prepare with family and friends. Wrapping the pockets together is the perfect way to celebrate a new year. 

Don’t Forget About Farmers

Agriculture is one of the most essential industries in the world. Without the food that farmers grow, we wouldn’t have much to celebrate. However you choose to ring in the New Year, we encourage you to remember and support the hardworking farmers that make your meals possible. Cooking with onions is a great way to start. 

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

Black History Month: 7 Black Innovators in Agricultural Industry

Each February, we have the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans. Those of us in the agricultural industry have plenty of African American inventors and farmers to thank for the advancements that make our jobs possible. At Gills Onions, we are proud to have a diverse workforce that strives to serve our communities and, of course, provide them with the world’s best onions. 

Here are seven Black farmers and inventors that you should know about and remember the next time you fill your plate. 

1. Henry Blair

Henry Blair was the second African American in history to be issued a United States patent. Born in Maryland in 1807 as a free man, Blair was a successful farmer, but he saw a need for more efficiency and smarter labor. 

His first invention was patented in 1834 as a “Seed-Planter” designed specifically to make the process of planting corn faster and simpler. A compartment stored and dropped seeds into the ground while attached rakes followed along behind to cover the seeds with soil. Two years later he received his second patent for a “Cotton-Planter” that was pulled by two horses as it dropped cotton seeds into freshly plowed soil. 

These inventions revolutionized the task of planting each individual seed by hand and made it easier for farmers to plant more in less time. Today, we see Blair’s influence in the mechanized farming machinery we use to plant and harvest onions on thousands of acres each year.

2. George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver is one of the most notable agricultural scientists and inventors of the modern American era. Realizing that soil in many southern states had been stripped of essential nutrients like nitrogen from repetitive cotton planting processes, he developed a new method for crop rotation. By alternating cotton crops with other produce like peanuts and corn, nitrogen was reintroduced to the soil and increased its productivity.

Carver also promoted practices that seem commonplace today like composting soil with organic matter. His work benefitted scores of sharecroppers across the United States, and his ideas for focusing on renewable resources and sustainable agricultural practices have never been more relevant than they are today. They’ve informed the Gills Onions Zero Waste Initiative and our creation of “Onion Power.” 

3. Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones was one of our nation’s most prolific inventors and entrepreneurs. He won the National Medal of Technology and holds a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Over his lifetime, he took out more than 60 patents, but we are especially grateful for his contributions in the world of refrigeration. 

Jones patented a cooling system in 1940 that mounted to the roof of trucks to keep foods cold during extended transportation. Later, it was also used on boats, planes, and railroad cars. During World War II, his invention helped to preserve blood, medicine, and food for transportation between battlefield camps and hospitals. Today, we’re able to ship our onions across the country and keep them fresh longer than any other onion in the market thanks, in part, to the modern version of Jones’ refrigerated trucks.

4. Booker T. Whatley

Booker T. Whatley is a unique but important addition to our list. As a horticulturist and professor at Tuskegee University, Whatley wrote and published the book How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres in 1987. His book became popular with small farmers and large producers alike. 

Whatley’s book offers smart and sustainable ways that farmers can minimize cost and waste while maximizing income and farm space. He also introduced the idea of community supported agriculture where local consumers could pay to receive or pick their own fresh produce directly from local farms, saving both labor and time for farmers. 

These ideas have spurred the movement to know your farmer and appreciate what is on your plate, both causes that are near and dear to our hearts. 

5. Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington is a well-known figure in Black History. His work to promote Black education and equal opportunity paved the way for generations of Black scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs. His involvement with The Second Morrill Act of 1890 forbade racial discrimination in college admissions for schools that received federal funding, which opened the door for many Black people to study agriculture at the university level. 

Education is essential for agriculture. As we learn and study, we can better understand how to keep our soil healthy and productive for the future. 

6. John W. Mitchell

John W. Mitchell was a Black educator and extension agent who worked tirelessly to improve the livelihoods of African American farmers in North Carolina. He famously commuted by bicycle or horse between three counties to organize farmers under the Eastern Columbus Credit Union. This allowed farmers to buy supplies together in bulk and cut costs, a method that set an example for other states and farmers to follow. 

During his lifetime, Mitchell also helped build one of the largest Black 4-H Clubs in the early 20th century. After World War II, membership in these 4-H Clubs soared, and Mitchell helped organize camps and competitions for Black youth to hone and demonstrate their agricultural skills. We’re grateful for his emphasis on education and his dedication to encouraging youth in agriculture

7. John W. Boyd Jr. 

John W. Boyd Jr. is an outspoken defender of civil rights and equal opportunity, especially in the world of agriculture. As a fourth generation farmer, Boyd encountered discriminatory practices at USDA. In response, he founded the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) in 1995. He has worked with national government leaders, international organizations, and NBFA members across the country to break down barriers and empower Black farmers. Today, the NBFA supports tens of thousands of members. 

We’re proud to promote organizations like the NBFA that fight discrimintation and support farms of all sizes across our nation. Join us by learning more about today’s Black farmers.

Onions and Christmas: A Recipe for Happiness

Ahh, Christmastime. A magical time of year that brings people together with familiar carols, festive decorations, and delicious holiday treats. The tree is lit, the fire is crackling, snow is falling, and best of all, the aroma of onions cooking in the kitchen wafts through the house as special Christmas meals are prepared. 

This season brings with it warm feelings of comfort and joy, and food is a huge part of the picture. But why is cooking such an important part of this holiday season? What makes food, especially onions, so special this time of year?

What Makes Onions So Special During Christmas

At Gills, we always feel happy when we eat onions, but scientifically speaking, onions make us feel good because that is what they are programmed to do. When you’re hungry, eating triggers a dopamine response, letting your brain know your body is safe and fed. This “happy chemical” makes us feel at calm and at ease. 

Plus, eating carbohydrates—a key component of so many holiday meals—causes a spike in blood sugar, temporarily making you feel more alert and full of energy as your body regulates insulin. Onions contain carbs, but are also commonly paired with other foods high in carbohydrates around this time of year. (Think puff pastries, potato casseroles, cheese balls, etc.)

Onions are also packed with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, which fuel your body, boost immunity, aid in digestion, and make you feel good all around. This is a great reason to add onions to as many dishes as you can.

All of these physiological reactions, combined with the comforts of tradition and family, create the perfect formula for warm fuzzies during Christmastime. Put simply: the holidays + onions = happiness. It’s science!

Tips for Making the Most of This Christmas

Aside from all the scientific reasons to eat onions this season, cooking holiday meals is simply a great way to build relationships and bring a happy holiday spirit into your home. 

Of course, your Christmas may look a little different this year in the wake of everything that’s been going on. Maybe you won’t be doing your usual traveling due to the pandemic, or maybe the stresses of 2020 have put a strain on family relationships. Whatever the circumstances, preparing special recipes can still lift your spirits and make this season feel special. 
Here are some more ideas for how to make the most of this Christmas season, while experiencing the joy of holiday cooking:

  • Experiment with a new recipe. Broaden your horizons and try something new. We highly recommend making a dish with caramelized onions. They can be added to both savory and sweet recipes to improve flavor and add nutrients.
  • Give a homemade meal to someone in need. While you’re experimenting with new recipes, share a meal with someone who could really use it. Drop off food to a new parent or a family dealing with illness, or find a local charity that delivers meals to the less fortunate. 
  • Teach someone how to cook. If you’ve mastered a recipe or specific skill, use this season as a chance to bond with a loved one over a cooking lesson. Not only will you feel happy for helping them learn a new skill, but it will also be something that will stick with them for years to come.

However you celebrate this year, cooking holiday meals, especially with onions, can make your season brighter.

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

How Onions Play an Important Role in Hanukkah

Hanukkah celebrations are just around the corner (beginning December 10, 2020), which means it’s time to prepare some delicious, traditional holiday dishes. 

At Gills Onions, we believe that every great meal starts with onions—especially celebratory meals. Let’s take a look at two traditional Jewish dishes that include onions to kick off the Hanukkah season. 

The Origin of Latkes

Latkes are a traditional Jewish dish commonly served during Hanukkah. You’ve probably heard of the latke, or potato pancake, but do you know about its rich history? 

Italian Jews originated the latke as early as the 14th century by deep-frying ricotta cheese. The use of dairy was an homage to the story of Judith, who ensured the military victory of her town by incapacitating an enemy general with salty cheese and wine. 

Over time, as the Jewish people continued to be moved around Europe, the latke evolved. In the 1800s, potatoes and onions became widely planted in Eastern Europe, making them an affordable vegetable to incorporate into Jewish recipes. This widespread availability led to the adaptation and popularity of the potato latke, or potato pancake, that we know and love today. 

Some also commemorate Hanukkah with latkes because of the oil used to fry them. Although latkes were originally fried in schmaltz (chicken or goose fat), many like to think of the more commonly used cooking oil as a symbol of the miracle of Hanukkah.

This recipe for no-fuss latkes calls for shredded onions and russet potatoes mixed with eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt and pepper. Once everything is combined and fried in oil, the result is a delicious and crispy hors d’oeuvre. Simply top with sour cream and applesauce, and enjoy.

You can also prepare latkes by adding potatoes and Gills Diced Onions to a food processor, rather than grating by hand. Just be sure to strain excess moisture with a cloth before adding your other ingredients.

How Brisket became a Celebratory Dish

Brisket is another traditional Jewish dish served during holidays like Hanukkah and Passover. This particular cut of beef grew in popularity among Ashkenazi Jews in the 18th century due to Kosher food rules and low cost.

Brisket is a tough cut of meat, so it must be cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Because it takes so long to prepare, it became a special meal reserved for Shabbat and special occasions.

traditional Jewish brisket is often seared, then baked in an oven with tomato sauce, over a bed of fresh cut onions and other vegetables. 

Gills Sliced Onions are perfect for preparing Hanukkah brisket because they arrive fresh, peeled, and ready to throw in the pan. Our onions save time and are guaranteed to be a tasty part of your celebration.

Whatever dishes you make to celebrate Hanukkah, onions have a history of making this holiday special­—and delicious.

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

Onions Make Meal Prep More Fun

The holidays can be stressful for a lot of reasons, but food doesn’t have to be one of them. Meal prepping is a great way to stay on track and avoid anxious feelings when surrounded by huge portions and piles of sweets this season.

At Gills Onions, we’re passionate about onions and what they bring to the table. That’s why we want to share some tips and tricks that will turn your meal prepping from blasé to bursting with flavor. These breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas are nutritious, delicious, and will make your holiday season more enjoyable. Make space in your fridge and freezer, and give these meal prep ideas a whirl. 

Add Onions to the Most Important Meal of the Day

Caramelized onions add nutrition and flavor to any dish—especially breakfast. The easiest way to incorporate them is to prepare a large batch at the start of the week, then add them to several different dishes. Onions take about an hour to caramelize properly, but the payoff is well worth it. Plus, you’ll have time to prepare some other breakfast items while they’re cooking. Store your excess caramelized onions in the fridge (if you’ll be eating them within a few days), or in the freezer for up to three months.

Here are some breakfast options that will start your day off on the right track with caramelized onions.

  • Breakfast burritos — The great thing about breakfast burritos is how versatile they can be. Depending on your preferences, start with whole wheat, low carb, or flour tortillas, and add whatever sounds appetizing to you. We love to scramble a large batch of eggs (or liquid egg whites), then mix in veggies like peppers, spinach, and caramelized onions. Potatoes, cheese, and breakfast sausage are tasty mix-ins as well. Once you have all of your ingredients prepared, wrap up your burritos and freeze them for an easy on-the-go breakfast option. Simply microwave frozen burritos for a few minutes, and head out the door. 
  • Savory overnight oats — Savory oatmeal and overnight oats have both become quite popular over the last few years, and for good reason. By combining the two, you’ll have another quick and easy meal-prepped breakfast option in your arsenal. To prepare your overnight oats, combine dry oats, greek yogurt, milk (or a milk alternative), and a dash of salt in a mason jar and place in the fridge overnight. Enjoy either hot or cold, with caramelized onions, a soft boiled egg (which can also be prepared and stored beforehand), and some fresh tomatoes. 

Lunch Time Made Easy

Another great way to meal prep with onions is by pickling a large batch of red onions to add to lunches. To prepare your pickled red onions, simply add sliced onions to a sealable container with salt, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and warm water. Let them cool to room temperature, and store them in the fridge.

  • Simple Salad — Salads are another meal prep item that can be as complex, or as simple as you like. We love the simplicity of dividing fresh lettuce, protein (like grilled chicken or chickpeas), and other chopped veggies like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and cucumbers into separate containers. Having everything pre-portioned and planned out makes eating vegetables so much more inviting. When you’re ready for lunch, simply grab a container, add pickled onions and your favorite dressing, and enjoy. 
  • Vegan sweet potato rice bowls — To prepare delicious, filling rice bowls, cook a large batch of rice, black beans, corn, and cubed sweet potatoes and divide into containers. When you’re ready to enjoy, heat up your portion and add pickled onions and avocado for a flavor explosion. 

End your Day with Fresh Onions

Lastly, pre-cut onions make meal prep for dinner time a breeze. At Gills Onions, we specialized in packaging peeledsliced, and diced onions, but if you’re buying onions whole, simply cut them beforehand, and store them in your freezer for easy access. 

  • Veggie-Heavy Pasta Sauce — An easy way to meal-prep pasta is by preparing a large batch of sauce beforehand. Cook your pre-cut onions in a tomato-based sauce with other vegetables like zucchini (be careful not to overcook), green pepper, olives, mushrooms, and garlic. Once it’s cooled, store it in the fridge for easy access at dinnertime. Tip: When making pasta as a meal-prep item, make sure to slightly undercook the noodles to prevent a mushy mess when reheating. 
  • Grand Slam Chili — This Grand Slam Chili recipe with shredded beef is delicious and can be easily stored and reheated for dinner, and Gills Diced Celery and Onions make this recipe even easier. Mix things up by using this recipe for chili cheese dogs, over nachos, or with rice.

However you like to meal prep, there’s no need to sacrifice flavor in the process. Make your holiday season less stressful by planning ahead with onions.  

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

Why Onions are an Essential Part of the Holidays

The holiday season is officially upon us, which means it’s time to get cooking! At Gills Onions, we’re excited to make some of our tried-and-true recipes and branch out with some new ones as well. Whether you like to go all out for holiday meals or keep it simple, onions are a staple this time of year. 

Onions are also an extremely nutrient-dense food, full of vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium, making them a healthy addition to all your holiday dishes.

Let’s take a look at some onion-inspired recipes for the holiday season.

What’s Turkey Day Without Onions?

Thanksgiving dinner is arguably America’s biggest meal of the year, and onions can be found at the heart of it. From appetizers to main courses, almost every recipe is improved by cooking with onions.

Take stuffing for example; a good Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing wouldn’t be complete without onions. This recipe contains Gills Fresh Diced Celery & Onions and only takes about an hour start to finish. Our diced onions and celery come conveniently packaged together, can be found at most local grocery stores and make an excellent addition to any holiday meal. 

If you prefer corn bread, try our Sweet Corn Bread Stuffing for a delicious, savory, crumbly pan of goodness. 

Green bean casserole is another recipe that demands onions. Many variations include packaged fried onions, but we prefer breading and baking fresh onions, like in this Food Network recipe.

And don’t forget about the star of the show: the turkey. Gills Onions are a perfect addition to any Thanksgiving turkey, whether you use them to stuff the bird’s cavity, or roast them with your turkey in the pan. Onions add essential flavor to the turkey and help retain moisture. 

When the festivities are over, don’t forget to try our Gills Onions Leftover Turkey Soup. Save some turkey bones to make your own stock, then add delicious leftover turkey, rice and veggies, and enjoy with your other leftovers.  

Baking with Onions

After Thanksgiving, onions continue to shine in traditional recipes for Christmas and New Year’s. But what about dessert? It might sound crazy, but onions can actually be an amazing ingredient in sweets, baked goods, and savory desserts.

For example, this chocolate cake recipe from The National Onion Association uses caramelized onions as a secret weapon. The onions add vitamins and moisture and provide a delicious nutty flavor to complement the chocolate. With this chocolate cake, picky eaters will never know they’re eating vegetables with their dessert, and you can feel a little relief from the onslaught of holiday sweets.

If you’re not ready to mix onions with confections, there are a myriad of savory desserts you can make this holiday season as well. Why not give Santa a break from all the cookies this year and set out some sweet onion scones or a savory pumpkin-onion cheesecake. The possibilities are endless, and with Gills Onions, they’re sure to be delicious.

Whatever recipes you decide to make this holiday season, have fun with onions, experiment, and get the whole family involved for an unforgettable holiday.

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

Why Onions Are an Important Part of the Day of the Dead

Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexican holiday honoring deceased relatives and ancestors. You probably recognize this holiday from popular Sugar Skull makeup, or the 2017 film Coco, but its history dates back centuries to the original month of celebrations in Aztec culture. 

Throughout all iterations of Dia de Muertos, food remains a staple—both for the families celebrating and for the dead. 

Keeping the Memory of Loved Ones Alive

The focus of Dia de Muertos is to remember, celebrate, and honor those who have passed away. To show respect for the deceased, family members create altars or ofrendas, and offer up items of significance to their relatives. These gifts include things like toys, clothing, flowers, and—most importantly—food.  

Food is a human experience shared by all, and connects us in profound ways. What better way to pay tribute to those who have passed, than by making their favorite meals? 

How Onions Play a Role in Dia de Muertos

At Gills Onions, we know the crucial role onions play in preparing food, especially when preparing meals for deceased loved ones. 

Onions have been a central component of Mexican cuisine for centuries. They bring life and flavor to a variety of Mexican dishes—from sopas, pico de gallo, and chilaquiles in the south, to grilled onions and burritos in the north. 

Because of the onion’s rich heritage in Mexico, many dishes prepared for deceased ancestors during Dia de Muertos contain onions in some way, shape or form. Thus, onions are an essential part of the celebration. 

Dia de Muertos Traditional Dishes

To celebrate Dia de Muertos in your own home, prepare food that reminds you of your loved ones, or try out these traditional Mexican dishes.

Pan de Muerto
Pan de Muerto (or “Bread of the Dead”) is a sweet bread with a bone-shaped design, found in many Mexican regions during the month of October. Make your own with this Pan de Muerto recipe, which includes both butter and margarine, orange zest, and orange blossom essence. 

Fiambre
Fiambre is a Guatemalan salad prepared on Day of the Dead. This dish is different depending on the family celebrating, but often includes cold meats, pickled onions and other pickled vegetables, boiled eggs, cheese, and lettuce. Create your own Fiambre and have fun mixing and matching ingredients.

Tamales
Tamales are a traditional dish that traces back to ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations. This masa-based dish is served year-round in Mexico, but is especially commemorative of Dia de Muertos. This tamales recipe calls for lard, corn husks, and chile pods, and involves boiling meats, garlic, and onions for two hours in preparation—so be sure to plan ahead before taking on traditional tamales. 

However you celebrate Dia de Muertos, remember to be respectful and to honor those who have passed. 

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

It’s National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month … Eat an Onion!

June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, and yes, it is a real holiday!

As the peak season for many early garden crops means they find their way into markets, this special month is an excellent time to take advantage of freshly picked fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are real foods that provide real benefits to your body. Instead of being filled with processed ingredients you can’t pronounce, you can rely on fruits and veggies to deliver essential vitamins and other nutrients. 

The saying goes, “You are what you eat.” So, why not be delicious and healthy? 

Real Foods, Real Benefits

The benefits of fruits and vegetables are no joke. Research shows that, “A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.” 

If you’re hoping to lose a few extra pounds, try eating non-starchy options like green leafy vegetables, apples, and pears. These types of produce have low glycemic loads, which help prevent the spikes in blood sugar that make you feel hungry. 

There are at least nine different families of fruits and veggies. Each of these groups contain hundreds of different organic compounds that boost health and deliver essential nutrients to your body. 

Here are a few highlights

  • Veggies are naturally low in both fat content and calories. 
  • No vegetables contain cholesterol. 
  • The folic acid found in fruits and veggies help your body form red blood cells. 
  • Produce is high in Vitamin A — which promotes healthy skin and eyes and protects against infections — and Vitamin C — which aids in iron absorption, promotes healing of cuts and wounds, and boosts the health of teeth and gums. 

Revamp Your Eating Habits with Fruits and Vegetables

Simply by swapping out processed or high sugar foods for fruits and veggies, we can all work to reverse national trends toward obesity and increase the quality and length of our lives. 

Here are a few simple ideas for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet:

  • Keep healthy options in view. Place snackable fruits and veggies in plain sight so they are the first things you see when you start to feel hungry. 
  • Prep for success. Keep individual portions of cleaned and chopped fruits and vegetables in containers or bags in your fridge, ready to grab for a snack or pack into lunches. 
  • Make trying something new a tradition. Each week, pick a new fruit or vegetable to try in your meals. You may find produce and recipes you never knew you liked before. 
  • Embrace variety. The larger the variety of fruits and veggies you consume, the better. Color is a great guide. Try to have a dark green, yellow or orange, and red fruit or veggie each day. 
  • Swap out carbs for vegetables. Instead of traditional pastas, try veggie based pastas or fresh veggie spirals. Cauliflower can be a great option instead of potatoes. 

A Good Word for Onions

Now, we have to put in a good word for onions. After all, at Gills Onions, we are the onion experts. We know how great onions can be for your health, and you should, too.

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

You can use onions in a salve to treat insect stings or as the main ingredient in homemade cough syrup. Onions also contain powerful antioxidants that delay damage to your cells and tissues and eliminate free radicals in your body.

Studies show that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis. 

In short, onions are always a healthy choice! So, choose more fruits and veggies in your next meal (and don’t forget the onions!). 

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

5 Creative Ways to Use Onions in Your Salads

At Gills Onions, we are unashamedly biased about our favorite vegetable. Our onions are delicious, the best on the market, and a delight to eat. You can use onions in countless ways, and we think every recipe is better with a bit of onion. 

But, there is one type of food that really allows our onions to shine: salads! 

Besides being one of the healthiest food choices you can make, salads are versatile and perfect for any occasion. And before you think that salads are boring, you should take a look at 5 of our favorite creative salad recipes. 

1. Marinated Cucumber, Onion, and Tomato Salad

This simple salad is easy enough for even the most novel chef to prepare, but it tastes like you put a whole lot of effort in. It features rings of white onion alongside cucumbers and tomato wedges in a tangy marinade. 

For this recipe you’ll need: 

  • Water 
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt 
  • Black pepper 
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • White onion

Simply whisk together the marinade ingredients and coat the sliced vegetables. Then, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Check out the full recipe here

2. Onion and Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is all the rage, and adding sliced white onion to the mix really ups the level of flavor. This recipe also features a homemade dressing and the option to add grilled chicken for extra protein. 

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • Red quinoa
  • Vegetable broth
  • Canola oil
  • White onion
  • Baby kale
  • Apple 
  • Grilled chicken (optional) 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Olive oil 
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey
  • Dijon mustard

You’ll start by whisking together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and Dijon mustard to make the dressing. Then, you boil the quinoa and broth. While the quinoa cools, you’ll saute the onion and mix it together with the kale, apple, chicken, salt and pepper. Toss in the quinoa. Top with the dressing, and dish up. Check out the full recipe here

3. Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad with Pickled Onions

Pickled onions are a pleasant surprise in this original take on a salad. You’ll also find sweet strawberries and creamy goat cheese, and you’ll make your own vinaigrette dressing. 

For this recipe you’ll need: 

  • Fresh thyme
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Salt 
  • Black pepper
  • Pickled onion (or fresh white onion that you can pickle yourself in the vinaigrette)
  • Olive oil
  • Goat cheese
  • Baby lettuce
  • Fresh basil 
  • Strawberries
  • Prosciutto
  • Pistachios

You’ll start with your pickled onion vinaigrette mixture. The thyme, vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and onions are combined in a jar and left to marinate together. Then, you’ll stir your goat cheese to make it extra creamy. You’ll toss your greens with the basil and top with the strawberries and prosciutto. Add a smattering of pickled onions with the vinaigrette, a dollop of goat cheese, and pistachios for garnish. Check out the full recipe here.

4. Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese Guacamole, and Crunchy Baked Onion Ring Salad

This tangy salad brings together the best of buffalo sauce and blue cheese. It’s basically bar food in a salad — with onion rings. It may not top the list of the healthiest salads in the book, but it will be a crowd favorite. 

This recipe is a bit more time intensive since you’ll be making your own chicken, onion rings, and dressing. Check out the full list of ingredients and instructions here

5. Onion and Turkey Lime Salad

This flavorful recipe comes in two versions: family friendly and adults only. For dinner parties without younger guests, the turkey can be cooked in a tequila based sauce. But, if you are looking for a less boozy approach, frozen grapefruit juice concentrate gives you the same zip. 

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • White or yellow onions
  • Sweet red peppers
  • Vegetable oil 
  • Shredded turkey
  • Tequila or frozen grapefruit juice concentrate
  • Lime peel zest
  • Cumin
  • Dried hot red peppers
  • Garlic 
  • Lime juice
  • Lettuce 
  • Sour cream

Start by sauteing the onions and peppers in oil until tender. Then, add the cooked turkey, tequila or grapefruit juice concentrate, cumin, crushed pepper, and garlic. Finally, add your lime juice to the mix. Place the entire batch into the fridge to cool. Serve over lettuce with a dollop of sour cream. Top with lime zest. Check out the full recipe here

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department, or look for us in the fresh cut produce aisle of your local grocery store. 

Onions: The Perfect BBQ Ingredient

Grab the grill, start up the smoker, and read up on your favorite recipes. May is National BBQ Month, a time to celebrate the fun and — of course — food that BBQ brings. As you plan your menu for your next BBQ, don’t forget the onions! Onions are a versatile and delicious addition to many BBQ dishes, sauces, and sides. Here are a few ideas of how you can use onions to create mouthwatering BBQ meals. 

Start with a Sauce

Whether you’re eyeing hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, sausage, or ribs, every BBQ deserves a good sauce. Onions are a great added ingredient to your favorite store bought sauce, or you can try your hand at crafting a sauce of your own. Here are a few recipes to get your creative juices flowing. 

Caramelized Onion BBQ Sauce — Caramelized red onions, horseradish, and chipotle powder add depth and spice to this versatile BBQ sauce. You can customize it with your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce, favorite beer, or favorite non-alcoholic beverage. Try a tangy apple juice for a family-friendly version. 

Caramelized Onion and Honey BBQ Sauce — If you like a sweeter sauce, try out this honey, tomato, and, of course, caramelized onion recipe. You’ll also find hints of molasses, mustard, brown sugar, and bacon.  

Sweet Onion Apple BBQ Sauce — If you crave the freshness of summer BBQ with the warmth of fall flavor, this is the sauce for you. Slow cooked apples, pureed caramelized onions, and cinnamon combine to delight even the most picky palate. 

Get Creative with Grilled Onions

One of the best things about onions and BBQ is that onions easily stand on their own. If you want to upgrade your recipe, just add some grilled onions. Or, you can get a bit more creative and add your own culinary flare. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Charred Onions and Chives — Follow these simple steps to get a beautifully charred onion each time you grill. The key is heat, a bit of olive oil, and salt. Top it off with finely chopped chives. 

Grilled Blooming Onion — That’s right. You can make this famous restaurant onion appetizer at home on your own grill. This recipe uses mozzarella cheese, your favorite steak sauce, and a large white onion to make a dish that is pretty to look at and good to eat. 

BBQ Onion Steaks with Honey Mustard Sauce — For the vegetarians in your life or to simply mix up your meal, grill up a batch of these onion “steaks.” Thick slabs of onion are covered in a honey mustard sauce and grilled until caramelized. 

Stuffed BBQ Onions — This innovative take on grilled onions uses the onion itself as a bowl to house delicious bits of BBQ onion and bacon. 

Spice up Your Side Dishes with Onions

If you’re searching for the perfect side dish to highlight your BBQ skills, onions can help any food shine. White and red onions are the stars of many wonderful salads and soups as well as important components of vegetable side dishes. 

Caramelized Onions and Apples — Slow cook sliced apples and sliced onions until caramelized. Then, dress them up with thyme sprigs for a tasty side dish. 

Peppers and Onions — Simple and satisfying, combining red and yellow bell peppers with yellow onion in a light sautee makes a great topping for BBQ meats or hot dogs. 

Balsamic Mushrooms and Onions — If you’re more of a mushroom maven, try this simple combo that pairs them with onions and balsamic vinegar for a zingy side dish or steak garnish. 

Classic Coleslaw — This chilled BBQ classic is easy to dress up. Grab a pre-made coleslaw mix and add a few ingredients like minced onion, buttermilk, and white wine vinegar to make a sauce that zings. 

Onion and Quinoa Salad — Bring together ancient grains and fresh onion for a refreshing summer side dish. 

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

National Garden Month

Growing Your Garden: Tips for Excellent Onions

April is National Garden Month. At Gills Onions, we grow vegetables on a large scale, but it doesn’t matter if you are planting thousands of acres or one window box. Growing your own food is an amazing thing. 

Agriculture brings us back in touch with where our food comes from and how it grows and gives us a sense of accomplishment that you can’t replicate doing anything else. Nurturing a plant and then reaping the delicious rewards deepens our respect for our amazing earth. 

So, if you’re considering getting your hands dirty, we’d like to recommend one of our favorite foods — onions!

Onions You Can Plant in Your Garden

The first thing you need to determine before you ever dig into the dirt is which type of onion you should plant. All onions are not created equal. Different onions grow better in different areas and climates. 

Onion bulbs grow in correlation with the length of daylight the plant receives. That’s why you’ll hear onions referred to as short-day, long-day, or intermediate. Short-day onions need about 10 hours of daylight. Long-day onions need closer to 15 hours of daylight. Intermediate onions tend to grow well in any climate and are less affected by the length of day. 

So, which onions should you plant? 

A good rule of thumb is to envision a line drawn across the United States from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. If you live north of this line, you should grow long-day onions. If you live south of this line, try a short-day instead. Anyone can try their hand at a day-neutral bulb. 

The Right Way to Plant Onions 

It takes about 120 days for an onion to grow. But, when you plant your onions depends largely on the variety of onion you plant. 

Short-day onions are typically planted in the late fall and harvested in spring. Long-day onions should be planted in early spring and harvested in the late summer. Day-neutral onions are planted in early spring for colder regions or in the fall for warmer regions. 

Planting your onions in a simple planter box is a great way to ensure your bulbs get the proper drainage and makes them easier to harvest. Remember, healthy soil grows healthy onions, so you need to focus on the dirt before you ever put bulbs in the ground. 

To ensure your onions have the right pH ranges in the soil and enough nutrients to grow, consider using a formulated raised bed soil from your local nursery or home improvement store. You can also improve the pH of your natural soil by mixing it with a few inches of rich organic matter, aged compost, or other natural fertilizers. Build the soil up high in the planter so your onions have a lot to work with. 

With soil in place, you’re ready to plant. Place each onion plant about 1 inch deep in the soil so that the roots are well covered but the plant’s neck (the green part) has room to breathe. Place each onion plant 6 inches apart. 

Keep the soil moist as your onions grow. Water your onions as soon as the top inch or so of the planter’s soil feels dry. 

The great thing about onions is that you can harvest at any time. Like we said before, you’ll want to wait about 120 days for a fully mature onion, but you can harvest onions when they are small as soon as a few weeks after planting. You’ve seen these onions in the store before — scallions. 

But if you dream of large juicy onions, watch the tops of your onion plant. When the tops begin to yellow and tip over, it’s time to pull the onions up, shake off the dirt, and place them out in the sun to cure. The key is to leave the green tops attached and keep the bulbs dry with circulating air. If you place your onions outside to dry, wait about a week before clipping off the onion tops and the roots. 

Gardening Is Good for You 

Gardening is good for you! It gets you outside absorbing Vitamin D, burns calories, and relieves stress. It also helps you eat healthier as you enjoy the fresh produce you have grown yourself. All of this leads to a stronger mind, a stronger body, and a stronger respect for where your food comes from. 

So, get out and garden!

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

Join Us to Celebrate World Water Day

Water, Onions & Our World

Water is one of — if not THE — most precious resource on our planet. It is essential for sustaining life. As human beings, we are 60% water. Onions start off at about 83% water. At Gills Onions, we care deeply about our people, our products, and our environment. That’s why we are so excited to celebrate World Water Day on March 22. Here’s why you should celebrate too. 

Let’s Talk About Water

The United Nations designated World Water Day to highlight the importance of fresh water. It’s a day to advocate for sustainable practices and put water at the heart of climate policy and action plans. According to the United Nations, “Extreme weather events are making water more scarce, more unpredictable, more polluted or all three. Humans need water to survive, as do all the systems we rely on: sanitation, healthcare, education, business and industry.” We’d like to add agriculture to that list. We need water to grow the food that we eat every day. Everyone eats, and water is an essential part of getting food from the field to your plate. 

Without Water, There Are No Onions

Onions need roughly 30 inches of water each season to grow. That may not sound like much, but remember that about 9.2 million acres of onions are grown and harvested each year worldwide. Onions provide important nutrients that humans need to be healthy. They are high in vitamin C and contain calcium, iron, high quality proteins, fiber, and folic acid. They are low in sodium and fat free. Research has even shown that onions can reduce the risk of cancer. So, we need onions. Onions need water. The question, then, is how can we use water most efficiently and grow onions in a sustainable way?

Gills Onions’ Approach to Water Sustainability 

At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices. That’s why we converted 99% of our conventional irrigation methods to drip irrigation, reducing water consumption in our California fields by 40%. That change conserves enough water in our fields to meet the annual needs of 2,900 homes. In our processing facility, a wastewater treatment plant treats about 180,000 gallons of production wastewater each day. Ultimately, 100% of this water is purified and recycled back to our facility for reuse. 

There is always more we can do to protect our environment and preserve our earth’s most precious resources. This World Water Day, how will you raise awareness and protect freshwater in your area? Share with us on social media!

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