Onions are delicious in many meals. Whether it is a robust salad or hamburger steak you crave, adding onions can enhance the experience and make it even more enjoyable. Depending on the meal you have in mind, selecting the right onion is key. Of course you want to use onions that are firm to the touch and do not have a foul odor or dark spots, but you also want the right onion for the dish.

There are a few types onion you should consider planting based on your tastes and cooking goals. Since different onions offer varying flavor profiles, you want to choose a variety that compliments the meals in which you intend to use it. If you wish to plant multiple onion types, it is still beneficial to your dish if you use the onion that goes best with what you’re planning to prepare. Here are the three types of onion:

1. The most widely grown onion in the United States is the yellow onion.  It is widely used in cooking and is up to versatile tasks. This onion is most commonly associated with being a sweet onion but is also a strong one, making it the one most likely to cause tears when cut.

2. The red onion has a milder flavor profile and is the second most widely grown variety in the United States. These onions range somewhat in color from a deep red to almost purple appearance, a coloration which makes them popular choices in salads, on burgers, and anywhere else where a pop of color is desired. They are often served cold or raw.

3. The onion typically seen in dishes where it is served cold, such as pico de gallo and potato salad. The flavor of a white onion is generally more mild than other types, but the white onion can be substituted for yellow onions if a more subdued onion flavor is your goal. Do keep in mind, however, the white onion does not store for as long as other onions due to a varied cell structure which causes them to spoil more quickly.

In addition to color traits, onions have seasonal traits as well which develop based on when they were grown. Onions harvested during the months of March through August have a lighter, thinner skin and range from sweet to mild in taste. They are also higher in water content which causes faster spoilage in addition to making them prone to bruise more easily. Between August and May, onions have thicker skin, lower water content, and survive longer periods of storage. They also develop a more pungent flavor during this time and take longer to cook.

When cutting the onions you’ve grown, there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, if you wish to avoid tears, it may be adequate for some to simply run your onion under cold water beforehand. More effective than that is to chill onions for a few hours prior to cutting as this slows the release of sulfur-containing compounds that trigger the lachrymatory factor which makes your eyes water. It is also said that leaving the root end attached when cutting helps as well.

To prepare onions, remember that those cut closest to cooking time are going to be the most flavorful as the flavor of a cut onion decreases over time. If you have excess onion left after cutting, it can be stored for seven days in the fridge. Onions should be cooked on low or medium heat as high heat exposure can lead to bitterness. Once you’ve grown and prepared onions as you wish, all that remains is to enjoy not only the great taste but also the many health benefits this versatile veggie has to offer.