The Corner Chronicle
Chimacum, Washington, Saturday July 22, 2017
What’s Up with non-Walla Walla Walla Wallas???
August 31st, 2011 by Katy McCoy

By Tassie Mardikes . . . write Tassie

Dear Tassie

Call me naive, but until yesterday when I saw Walla Walla onions for sale in your store from Dharma Ridge Farm just down the road, I guess I assumed that a Walla Walla onion came from Walla Walla.

As a kid growing up in Seattle, it was maybe my first concept of a local food and I took pride in them. Potatoes grew in Idaho and  sweet onions grew in Walla Walla, WASHINGTON – my state!. Now I guess I’m big enough to hear the no-doubt more nuanced story.

Curiously yours,

Naive neighbor

Dear Not-so-Naive Neighbor,

You are not the only Washingtonian who strongly identifies with the Walla Walla Onion.  In 2007, it was named the Washington State vegetable!

This sweet onion’s story began in Corsica, 1800, where a Frenchman by the name of Peter Pieri found an onion seed.   He brought it with him to the town of Walla Walla in Eastern Washington, where he and others used it to create their own variety.   Year after year, only the biggest, juiciest, mildest descendants of that original seed were selected for planting.  In time the Walla Walla Onion was developed.   Though this variety can be planted in other places,  some say it tastes best when planted in its hometown soil which imparts a distinct flavor.

In my experience the Walla Wallas grown in Chimacum are delicious.  Though they are called sweet onions, they are not overly saccharine and are still good for savory purposes (although, I have heard rumors of people eating them with caramel in lieu of apples).  They are great grilled, roasted, and eaten simply with other delicate flavors.

Since their water content is so much higher than that of other onions, Walla Wallas do not keep beyond six weeks. During their season (June – September), I always make sure to fry up some onion rings at least once.  I dip them in buttermilk, coat them in the following dredge, and fry them until golden in peanut oil.

Mix together these ingredients to make 3/4 C dredge:

  • 1/2 C flour
  • 3 T stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper

Be sure and try some!

Tassie