Little Onions

Allium cepa

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Also pearl onions, picklers, creamers, boilers, baby onions, mini-onions

Including cipolline or Italian pearl onions

Distinct as their appearance may be, the golden, silver-white, and fuchsia pearls and teardrops shown here are “all Allium cepa and named by size and nothing else,” according to the onion breeder Leonard Pike, a professor of horticulture at Texas A & M. “One seed shows up as pearls or boilers and standards and jumbos. The grading machine tells them their names.”

Bob Rietveld, co-owner of Magic Valley Growers in Wendell, Idaho, a primary grower of petite onions, reels off these names: picklers (onions less than 1 inch in diameter); pearls (¾ to 1 inch); creamers (1 to 1¼ inches); boilers (¼ to 1⅞ inches). But “to most customers, they are all just pearl onions anyway,” he says. Like green onions, they stay small because they are planted in tight quarters and picked early. But unlike green onions, they are as pungent and storable small as they are when they become large.

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