They're big, round, and sweet. They're from Walla Walla, Washington: a town with such a catchy name it could be a mantra. They caramelize like a dream - a sweet, sticky, golden dream. "True onion aficionados" says Vegetable Gardens of the Columbia Basin (, "know that there are no onions that match the sweetness, crispness and juiciness of a Walla Walla Sweet." Eat them raw. It won't hurt. I promise.

Walla Walla onions are the descendents of sweet Italian onions imported to Washington in the late 19th century - genetically modified in the time-honored way of picking and choosing the best from each crop (who needs "more advanced" ways?).

Scientifically, the sweetness (or lack of bite) comes from a low sulfur content. Sulfur helps onions have a long shelf life (think sulfured dried apricots; think harsh yellow winter onions), so plan to use your Walla Wallas quickly. Not that that'll be a problem.

Despite their many mouthwatering virtues, if you do not live in the Pacific Northwest, you may want to think twice about buying Walla Wallas from a supermarket. The USDA has ordered that commercial production of Walla Wallas be limited to the Walla Walla Valley of Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon - your onion may have travelled a long way. Who wants a roadweary onion, short in sulfur, long in the truck? Check your local farmstands instead (in season) for something fresher.

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