I live in Georgia, which is known as the Peach State, but there is another crop that our state is also famous for, and that's our state vegetable, the Vidalia Onion.
Vidalia onions are milder and sweeter than regular yellow onions. They were first discovered in the early 1930's and are grown only in a 20-county area in Southern Georgia. The sweetness of these onions is attributed to the low amounts of sulfur in the soil where they are grown. Depending on the soil conditions, the sweetness can vary from onion to onion and farm to farm with the sweetest of them being able to be eaten raw like an apple. An added benefit of these onions is that they contain much less of the acid that you find in regular yellow onions. The gasses that are made by this acid are what makes your eyes water when you cut the onion. Less acid means less gasses and less gasses mean less tearing up when you cut into them.
Vidalia onion production begins in September when the first seeds sown. About eight weeks after they have sprouted, they are then pulled up by hand, trimmed and moved to their permanent fields to finish growing which is a hands-on, labor intensive process. The onions are ready for harvest from about mid April through mid June but with today's advances and breeding you can usually find a steady supply of them for most of the summer. When you think about how long it takes for the onion to grow and the fact that it is grown in only 20 counties in one state, it's pretty remarkable that these onions now account for 40% of the total national spring onion production.
When you cook with a Vidalia instead of a regular onion, you may want to experiment a little. Since they are sweeter than a regular onion, they can change the overall taste of your dishes. I use them as often as possible when they are in season but I have learned with dishes like chili that I need to also mix in some regular onions to get the taste I want. If my recipe does end up being too sweet, I then add something a bit acidic to it to adjust the flavor and counteract some of the sweetness.
If you have never tried a Vidalia onion, you really must because they are a seasonal treat that is well worth the wait. There are other types of sweet onions available in the supermarket but a true Vidalia has a taste that is like no other onion out there.