I thought I would start the vegetable “review” with one of my all time favorite vegetables… the Onion.
Onions are one of the oldest vegetables. They were grown by the Ancient Egyptians over 5,000 years ago and were probably eaten long before that. Their actual origins are not known, but they probably first grew in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. As well as adding flavor to food, they have long been known for their health giving properties.
Traditionally, the large, round onions that are mainly used for cooking are grown from sets, which are small bulbs that started their life during the previous season. They get harvested at the end of their first season, when they are about .5 – 1 inch in diameter. Some varieties can be grown from seed as long as they are sown early enough, and under glass (midwinter).
There are over one hundred different varieties of onions available. There are three basic types according to color: golden, red and white. (The golden variety looks brown occasionally). Golden varieties, the yellow onions, are generally best for storing. The reds and whites provide a sweeter and milder flavor.
Onions are a nutrient-dense food, meaning that while they are low in calories they are high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One cup of chopped onion contains approximately 64 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein and 10% or more of the daily value for vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and manganese. Onions also contain small amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and the antioxidants quercetin and sulfur.
Onions were historically as a preventative medicine during epidemics of cholera and the plague. They were apparently eaten by Roman emperor Nero as a cure for colds, and its reputation has made onions a popular component in the diets of many countries.
…The onion’s revenge: The smell of onions can be a problem, both on the hands and on the breath. After chopping onions, try rinsing the hands with cold water, rubbing them with salt, rinsing again and then washing with soap and warm water. To remove the smell from breath, eat a few sprigs of parsley or an apple to help conceal the odour.
The power of raw…
The onion is more active in its raw state than when cooked, is that it contains a variety of organic sulphur compounds, which are partly destroyed by heat. When eaten raw, its juice can act as an irritant and some people find it difficult to digest. Those who are not tempted by the idea of eating raw onions can follow simple cooking methods that may make them more palatable. For people with sensitive stomachs, this is a far suitable way to enjoy the healthy benefits of onions. Onions baked in their skins, in a similar way to baked potatoes, are also delicious. This method of cooking keeps all the goodness inside, but the resulting flavour is milder and more aromatic than that of raw onions.
I found it interesting that in some Arab countries onions mixed with salt and pepper are applied to the scalp as a remedy for hair loss.
Although not nearly as valued a medicinal agent as garlic, onion has been used almost as widely. Onions have been used in folk medicine for the relief of coughs, colds and catarrh, especially asthma, but more recently some of their curative properties have been attributed to a compound called allyl propyl disulphide, which is thought to have a similar effect to insulin in balancing blood sugar levels. This does not mean that the onion can be used as a substitute for insulin therapy; but it may be of help to those who suffer from hypoglycaemia.