- Onion Basic Info.
- Onion Botanical Description.
- Onion Classification.
- Onion and History.
- Onions:Archeology and Registration.
- Onions and Phytochemicals.
- Onion Nutritional Analysis.
- Modern Research Update:Health Benefits.
- FAQ:Frequently Asked Questions of Onion.
- Onion Handlings:How to Select,Prepare,Store Onions?.
- Onion Trivia and Onion Cooking.
- Research Update:Allium cepa or common onion.
Onion and History.:
The onion is chiefly cultivated for culinary purposes. The bulbs afford a considerable proportion of alimentary matter, principally mucilage, particularly when boiled; but in dyspeptic habits they occasion flatulence, thirst, and headache. The bulb is the most active part and is stimulant, diuretic, and expectorant. On account of the free phosphoric acid it contains, the juice is supposed to be useful in calculous cases, as it dissolves phosphate of lime out of the body.?
Onions are native to Asia and the Middle East and have been cultivated for over five thousand years. Onions were highly regarded by the Egyptians. Not only did they use them as currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids, but they placed them in the tombs of kings, such as Tutankhamen, so that they could carry these gifts bestowed with spiritual significance with them to the afterlife.
Onions have been revered throughout time not only for their culinary use, but also for their therapeutic properties. As early as the 6th century, onions were used as a medicine in India. While they were popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans, they were oftentimes dressed with extra seasonings since many people did not find them spicy enough. Yet, it was their pungency that made onions popular among poor people throughout the world who could freely use this inexpensive vegetable to spark up their meals. Onions were an indispensable vegetable in the cuisines of many European countries during the Middle Ages and later even served as a classic healthy breakfast food. Christopher Columbus brought onions to the West Indies, and from there, their cultivation spread throughout the Western Hemisphere. Today China, India, the United States, Russian, and Spain are among the leading producers of onions.
The onion is believed to have originated in Asia, though it is likely that onions may have been growing wild on every continent. Dating back to 3500 BC, onions were one of the few foods that did not spoil during the winter months. Our ancestors must have recognized the vegetable's durability and began growing onions for food.
The onion became more than just food after arriving in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity. Of all the vegetables that had their images created from precious metals by Egyptian artists, only the onion was made out of gold.
Today, onions are used in a variety of dishes and rank sixth among the world's leading vegetable crops. Onions are low in calories and in most nutrients (however, green onions are a good source of Vitamin A.)
More onions are consumed than any other vegetable. Over 6,000 years ago, the onion was already one of the most important vegetable and medicinal plants of Central Asia, present day Pakistan, Northwest India, and the Mediterranean. It is one of the oldest of all cultivated plants and now grows in many different forms and in almost every area of the world, but chiefly in the warmer subtropics and the temperate zones. The major world producers are the US, China, Russia, India, Turkey, and Spain. It is assumed that the onion is native to Central Asia since the first written records of it came from there. However, no seed or tissue has ever been found fossilized. Onions were used by the Egyptians, not only as food, but also as a preservative during mummification when they were placed in the thorax, pelvis, and near the eyes. Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) recorded six varieties in ancient Rome, where they had developed varieties with varying flavours. There is no record that the ancient Greeks used them as decorative or symbolic motifs, but Olympic athletes did use them before games to "purify and condition their blood". Greek and Phoenician sailors carried onion, and it is now thought that their vitamin C content helped to prevent scurvy.
For over 4000 years, Onions have been used for medical purposes. Egyptians numbered over 8000 onion-alleviated ailments. The esteemed Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed Onions as a diuretic, wound healer and pneumonia fighter. During World War II, Russian soldiers applied Onions to battle wounds as an antiseptic. And throughout the Ages, there have been countless folk remedies that have ascribed their curative powers to Onions, such as putting a sliced Onion under your pillow to fight off insomnia. Yet today, Onions are still considered a modern day preventative. Sweet Onions are a member of the 500-plus allium family. While garlic, another allium, has been highly touted as a cancer preventative, most people consume far greater quantities of Onions. As Americans search for low-fat, low-salt, but tasty meals, they're eating more Onions - almost 18 pounds per person per year, which is 50% more than a decade ago. There is great confidence that the Onion will be a key in producing long-term health benefits. In addition to tasting great, Onions contain 25 active compounds that appear to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, help combat heart disease, inhibit strokes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and stimulate the immune system. Alliums are also antibacterial and anti-fungal, so they can help ward off colds, and relieve stomach upset and other gastrointestinal disorders. What makes them so good for you? Of all the healthy compounds contained in Onions, two stand out: sulfur and quercetin - both being strong antioxidants. They each have been shown to help neutralize the free radicals in the body, and protect the membranes of the body's cells from damage. Quercetin is also found in red wine and tea, but in much lower quantities. Interestingly, white Onions contain very little quercetin, so it's better to stick with the yellow and red varieties. Most health professionals recommend eating raw Onions for maximum benefit, but cooking makes them more versatile and doesn't significantly reduce their potency. In fact, unlike sulfur compounds, quercetin can withstand the heat of cooking. One researcher, Dr. Leonard Pike, director of the Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas AM University, is working on producing onions with even higher levels of quercetin. Today, another excellent alternative for those who dislike the smell and taste of Onions is to routinely add an encapsulated supplement to their daily diets. As with Garlic, Onions help prevent thrombosis and reduce hypertension, according to the American Heart Association. The natural constituents of yellow or white Onions can raise HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) by 30% over time, according to Dr. Victor Gurewich of Tufts University.
Onion lovers throughout the world are weeping, and they simply can't help it! What is this phenomenon all about, you wonder? It boils down to a few biting facts recognizing that onions, a mere vegetable, have that certain power to bring us to tears.
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds. When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place. First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odor. Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulfur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Historically, the onion is nothing to cry about. Over many centuries it occupied an exalted position as a work of art as well as a food. Not many people today would burst into tears if they were asked to consider the onion as a work of art, but they might do so if they had to eat one raw.
Eaten and cultivated since prehistoric times, onions were mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto banquet tables, both the robust bulb onions as well as scallions.
Of all foods in the plant kingdom, onions set the record for the most frequent appearance in ancient Egyptian art. It certainly is no wonder since they were the staple food of the poor along with bread and beer. Onions often appeared in Egyptian art as a sacrifice that appeared on their altars.
Strange as it seems today, in ancient Egypt a basket of onions was considered a very respectable funeral offering, rating only second to a the highly revered basket of bread.
Archeologists discovered small onions in the eye sockets in the mummy of King Ramses IV who died in 1160 BCE. To the Egyptians, the onion, with its concentric layers, represented eternal life and was buried with each of their Pharoahs.
The origin of the name "onion" comes from the classical period when it was given the Latin name uniothat means oneness or unity, or a kind of single onion. The French call it oignon. Martin Elcort in his book The Secret Life of Food writes, "The word (onion) was created by adding the onion-shaped letter o to the word union, yielding a new spelling ounion. The letter u was later dropped to create the modern spelling. A union is something that is indivisible and which, if taken apart, is destroyed in the process, like an onion."
Wild onions presently grow in Central Asia where the whole family of onions is said to have originated, though some say it was in the area of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Those familiar looking, round, mature bulbs are in the Allium cepa genus that is part of the lily family. There are 325 species of onions, 70 of which grow in North America. The grand allium family includes onions, shallots, green onions (often called scallions), chives, leeks, and garlic.
Food historians shake their heads regarding the exact origin of the onion. Some varieties of onions have been given popular names like Egyptian onions or Welsh onions with no evidence that they actually grew in those countries. For instance, the Welsh onion, A. fistulosum, is considered quite primitive in that it has never developed a bulb, but rather resembles a scallion with a slightly thickened stem. The Welsh were not inclined to cultivate them on any large scale, and they weren't even introduced into the country until 1629.
More confusing is the Egyptian onion, a tree onion that was actually unknown in Egypt. A specimen of this unique onion variety came to the attention of Frenchman Jacques Dalechamp, in his country in 1587. The Egyptian onion, never having developed a substantial bulb, did not become popular because it has difficulty developing seeds to reproduce itself. This variety was officially introduced into Great Britain in 1820 from Canada. Historians have been puzzled to see the tree onion, along with the Welsh onion, growing wild in North America.
In their immature state scallions are called spring onions in Britain, though spring onions and scallions are terms sometimes used interchangeably. This causes some confusion. In the southern United States scallions are called green shallots.
The Sumerians of Mesopotamia, the first to establish a written language, developed cuneiform inscriptions. Archeologists found one of their inscriptions dating back to 2400 BCE that read, "The oxen of the gods plowed the city governor's onion patches. The onion and cucumber patches of the city governor were located in the gods' best fields." The inscription actually referred to the property of the temple as the "gods' best fields" that were being misused as an onion patch by the city governors.
One cannot deny the power of the onion on the olfactory senses. The rich found the odor downright disgusting. In spite of their negative attitudes, though, this "odorous" vegetable was cultivated in the gardens of the ancient kings from 2100 BCE to 716 BCE from Ur to Babylon.
From ancient history up to the 19th century, onions were relegated as the food for the poor. The Code of Hammurabi, known as the ancient law of Mesopotamia, shows great concern for the needy by providing them a monthly ration of bread and onions, a ration that comprised the mainstay of the peasant diet. As disagreeable as the onion was to the aristocrats, the peasants devoured them completely raw.
Apparently onions took on dual status in the attitudes in the ancient world. In Egypt they were highly revered by the poor and eaten extensively along with bread and beer. A small sect of Egyptian priests, however, were forbidden to eat them. Historians are unsure of the reason for this taboo. On the other hand, onions may have been reviled by those in high positions. In India Brahmins and Jains are also forbidden to eat onions, even today. Presently in France there is a sect with only a few thousand followers who revere the onion for its immortality and consider it divine.
By 500 BCE onions were a common peasant food in Greece. Though the variety of vegetables eaten by the ancient Greeks was limited to onions, garlic, peas, cabbage and lentils because most were expensive, the onion, however, was the exception. Because it grew easily and extensively, the poor could afford onions as a staple.
Onions played a role during the period Alexander the Great was leading his armies in conquest of other lands. It was believed that if one ate strong foods, one would become strong. Alexander fed his men onions believing they would increase their strength and courage.
In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome the common folk relished their onions and even ate them raw. We're all familiar with onion breath. Perhaps that is why the upper classes, such as the Brahmins of India, turned up their noses. Apicius, Imperial Rome's first cookbook author, never featured onions in his cuisine of the wealthy but only used them as flavorings in sauces or to enhance a mixed dish or a dressing. The common folk frequently started their day with a hearty serving of raw onions on bread, a recurring theme throughout the peasant world, and one abhorred by the upper classes.
In Pompeii those "lowly vendors" who sold onions were rejected from the guild of fruit and vegetable vendors, and had to form their own guild. In the brothels of Pompeii, however, onions were held in high regard. Archeologists discovered a basket of overcooked onions in the ruins of one of the city's best-loved brothels where the elite co-mingled with the onioneaters, and, no doubt, enjoyed a few raw slices themselves.
By the first century, Rome developed a healthy respect for onions, which were suspended from numerous strings that hung from the ceiling of the Trajan market. It was during the Middle Ages, that the onion finally achieved status, where the low-born as well as aristocracy relished them equally. In fact, they were so appreciated that Emporer Charlemagne ordered onions to be planted in his royal garden, they were written into the French feudal deeds, and strings of onions were even accepted as payment for the use of land.
On his second to sailing to Haiti during the period of 1493 to 1494, Columbus brought the varieties of the cultivated onion to the New World. Though there were some native wild onions growing in America, they didn't compare to the intense flavor of the new variety from Europe. The Indians quickly adopted these new onions with great enthusiasm, especially the garlic.
Not so insignificant after all, America's native tree onions and nodding onions provided sustenance to Pere Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary and explorer, in 1624 when starvation threatened during his explorations from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Lake Michigan's southern shore. The city of Chicago, a region that grew wild onions in abundance, received its name from the Indian word that described the odor of onions.
Had it not been for onions, the civil war might have turned out differently. General Ulysses S. Grant, who headed the Union forces, sent a note to the War Department that read, "I will not move my troops without onions." He promptly received three cartloads. Grant also employed the juice of onions medicinally as a wound healer.
American cowboys favored another native onion, the prairie onion, that they called skunk egg. No doubt it earned this descriptive name because of its powerful odor. Odor aside, the onion lends exceptional flavor to any raw or cooked dish and was always included in a favorite cowboy plat du jour called son-of-a-bitch stew.
- 1.Onion,Classifications,Tradition,History,Magical,Modern Updated.
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