We often take green onions for granted except when we don’t have any to top our bowl of saimin or to add to fried rice. The gentle onion flavor and bright green color is a must-have for many favorite island dishes.
Green onions are also known as scallions, distinguished as slim and bulbless — these are really immature onions picked before the bulbs form. Another species of green onion is the bunching onion, one that does not form a bulb and has more tubular leaves. Each one provides that mild but distinct onion flavor and wonderful color that garnishes a dish so well.
In island markets, look for green onions whose ends have not been cut off — these are grown by local farmers. When the ends are cut, it’s an indication of green onions imported from the mainland.
More than just a garnish, consider green onions as a vegetable. Saute 1-inch lengths of green onions with thinly sliced beef and oyster sauce. Grill bunches of green onion alongside meats and poultry. Beef or chicken broth full of green onions is highly satisfying.
When you can’t use all the green onions you’ve purchased, chop them as you would for a garnish, place in a covered jar, freeze and use them as needed. But don’t leave them too long in the freezer, as their flavor will diminish over time.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown.