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Contributed Photo by Tori McKinney / Vidalia onions get their distinctive sweet taste from the sandy, loamy soil of southeastern Georgia.

Vidalias, those gems of the South, are now filling area produce departments. For decades, they've delighted us with a flavor that can put a sweet spin on so many dishes.

The versatile Vidalia works in appetizers, breads, pizza, casseroles, salsa — so many recipes. And this year's crop is an excellent one, according to Chelsea Blaxton Page with the Vidalia Onion Committee.

"Our seed beds produced good, healthy plants in sufficient volume," she says. "The weather was perfect for our planting season this past year."

Vidalia onions are a special type of sweet onion, grown only in Southeast Georgia and loved by all Southerners.

But it all started as a fluke during the Great Depression when farmers in Toombs County, Georgia, were looking for a new cash crop to make some money. They found that onions would grow well in the area's sandy soil. But what a surprise they encountered when the onions came out tasting sweeter than expected.

Long story short, the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain started selling the onions in the Vidalia, Georgia, store, then shipped them to all of its locations.

Vidalia onions are now grown by 60 registered farmers in 13 Southeast Georgia counties.

And now, it's hard to find a grocery store in the South that doesn't sell them this time of year.

When you bring some home this season, try one of my favorite ways to serve Vidalias. This slaw is delicious on your fish tacos or to top your barbecue sandwich or any time you need a tangy side dish.

 

Vidalia Slaw

2 Vidalia onions

Buttermilk dressing:

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 teaspoons celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

Garnish: Dill, parsley, thyme, or chive

Peel and slice the onions into 1/8-inch slices, then cut the slices in half or thirds.

Put the onions into a bowl, carefully separating the strands as you add them.

Whisk together the dressing, tasting as you go to adjust any of the ingredients.

Pour enough dressing over the onions to saturate them, but don't drown them. Toss well, and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Garnish with a sprinkle of dill, parsley, thyme, green onion or chives for a little color before serving.

 

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

Another summer standard in the South — fried green tomatoes — is a menu favorite at Tupelo Honey Cafe restaurants, including the Chattanooga location at Warehouse Row, 1110 Market St.

Last week, the chain's executive chef, Eric Gabrynowicz, along with marketing specialist/lifestyle blogger Amber Miller of Virginia Beach, Virginia, shared how to make them at home, along with goat cheese grits and red pepper coulis, which is how they're served in the restaurants.

If you missed the live cooking demo, you can find it archived on Instagram, along with other recipes.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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Anne Braly
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