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The awesome onion

Mar./Apr. 2009 California Country magazine

It's all about onions for the Gill family. Read about their unique business and try a favorite recipe or two.



Onions. They're used in practically every cuisine in the world. And whether you like yours fresh, frozen, canned, pickled or dehydrated, the fertile fields of Gills Onion farm in the Salinas Valley is where many of them get their start.

From the fields, they are harvested, graded and sorted. Some are put into cold storage and some continue to the Gills processing facility more than 250 miles away in Southern California.

Gills Onions was launched in 1983 when an executive from La Victoria Foods approached brothers Steve and David Gill about growing fresh onions as an ingredient for La Victoria salsa.

Today the folks at Gills peel and cut more than 5,000 truckloads of onions a year at their state-of-the-art facility in Oxnard. Their onions are shipped to industrial, foodservice, wholesale and retail markets all over North America. The onions are sold in a variety of ready-to-use forms including diced, sliced and slivered—good news to both chefs and home cooks who like the no-tears idea of pre-cut onions.

"Our saying is, 'If you are cutting your own onions, it's a crying shame!'" says Nelia Alamo, one of Steve Gill's three daughters and the company's sales and marketing director.

Aside from being loaded with health benefits, onions are practically a culinary necessity.

"Onions are so versatile," Nelia says. "The Gill family loves to include fresh onions in most of what we cook. We use them in soups and casseroles in the winter and for barbecues, sandwiches and salads in the summer."

Here are a few of the Gills' favorite recipes. For more information about Gills Onions, visit www.gillsonions.com.

Gills' grilled onions

Yellow onions
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Slice onions about 1/2-inch thick. Place on the barbecue. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for a few minutes on each side. Remove and brush with balsamic vinegar. Serve with steaks, burgers or other barbecued vegetables.

Gills' onion artichoke dip

1 package Gills Onions fresh diced yellow onions (10 oz.)
8 oz. cream cheese
12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained well and chopped

Combine all ingredients and bake in small casserole dish at 250 degrees until bubbly. Serve with chips or crackers.

Tracy Sellers and Barbara Arciero are reporters for the California Farm Bureau Federation. They can be reached at ccmagazine@cfbf.com.


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