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Onion From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

Onion From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

French onion soup is the most famous onion based recipe, and one of the many interesting facts about this vegetable: find out 26 interesting things to know.

By FDL on

Allium Cepa. Is the scientific name of the onion, an herbaceous plant that needs to be cultivated. The wild onion - Allium Canadense – originally grows in North America.

Bulb. Is the edible part of the plant (it's also called “bulb onion”), available in three varieties and colors: the pungent yellow (or brown), the moderate white, the sweet red.

Crying. When your eyes start tearing up from cutting onions, it's because your eyes are trying to get rid of the sulfuric acid from the chemical reaction that can hurt the onion's layers as well as the defenses of the eye. How to prevent it? It's a volatile water-soluble molecule and you can wash it out in water. Or: use a very sharp knife; put the onions in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before cutting slices.

Dogs. Onions are bad for dogs and other pets. They can really harm dogs and one must avoid feeding them onions. Onions kill their red blood cells; large and even small amounts of it, if used repeatedly, can cause dangerous forms of anemia.

Egypt. Onions were grown as far back as in Ancient Egypt, and it was one of the main nutrients given to slaves while building the pyramids. The Egyptians saw it as an object of worship for its shape and gathered rings which symbolized eternal life. It was also believed that its strong scent could bring people back from the dead.

French onion soup. Caramelized onions, veal broth, croutons and cheese, in a ceramic ramequin ready for the oven. The modern version comes from 17th century France, and it became popular again in the 60s thanks to Americans' newly found interest in French Cuisine.

Gladiators. Back in Ancient Rome, Gladiators used onions as an ointment on their skin to reinforce their muscles. Athletes used to eat it in Ancient Greece.

Haiti. Christopher Columbus brought it to the Americas via Haiti back in 1493.

Insects. It's very common in tribes and populations around the world to use its juice to prevent insect bites.

Japanese bunching onion. It's also called Welsh Onion (Allium fistolosus), the “welh” derives from an ancient language and means "stranger": it's not originally from Galles. It doesn't grow bulbs even when it's mature and it's used everywhere as a yard onion. It's also very common in Asian cuisine.

Killers. Onions, especially raw onions, are responsible for bad breath. There are other ingredients that can help prevent that. A spoon of mustard; parsley, mint, coffee seeds followed by a glass of milk; cloves; anise seeds, cardamom; even some bread and cheese.

Layers. Onion layers symbolize the layers you need to peel to get to the essence of things. A humble vegetable with a spiritual message.

Middle Age. In the Middle-Ages onions were very important because you could use them to pay rent. They were always a good present to give.

No. Onions (and garlic) are forbidden in the Sattvik diet which is a very important vegetarian culinary field based on Yoga and Ayurveda allowing to get clarity and equanimity.

Odor. The smell of onions is very hard to get rid of. You must wash your hands in cold water with soap and coffee, or lemon; for the dishes use carrots.

Pearl. Pearl onions are more similar to leeks than onions. They are used industrially (for example in pickles). Thanks to their sweet taste and tiny shape, they are also popular in American dishes such as the Succotash.

Quercetin. It's the most common flavonoid in onions and with phenols they prevent osteoporosis, asthma, viral diseases, inflammatory diseases, serve as an anti-oxidants, anti-cholesterol, and anti-carcinogenic. Tradition and research can vouch for the health benefits of onions.

Rings. It's not clear where the fast-food originated from. The Texan chain Pig Stend claimed its paternity in the 20s; the first advertisement was seen in the New York Times Magazine in 1933. A recipe from a 1802 cookbook anticipates the modern version and uses Parmesan cheese fried in lard grease.

Shallot. It used to be considered something of its own, but it's a variety of the Allium Cepa. It's has a less intense taste compared to the onion, with more aroma and garlic flavor. Contrary to the onion, shallots should be put in water to avoid burning of the eyes, it has a negative effect on its taste.

Tropea. The Tropea onion is a protected variety of red onions that grow in Calabria, Italy, and takes its name after the city of Tropea. Very aromatic and juicy, it's so sweet it can be used in jams.

Uncouple. Conserving onions and potatoes together is a widely spread habit, but it's wrong. Onions absorb humidity from the potatoes and rapidly go to waste. (it also ruins the potatoes).

Vinegar. Pickled onions are very popular in many countries. They are essential to the UK's Ploughman’s lunch”; and the Raclette in Switzerland. The “silverskin” is used in a Martini cocktail variety.

World. Onions are grown and used around the entire world. About 170 countries grow onions for domestic use.

Xproliferum. Allium Xproliferum – popular names: walking onions, tree onions, Egyptian onions – they are similar to the Allium Cepa, but their bulbs grow out in the air rather than bloom. The plant curves under the weight and the bulbs go under the soil creating new plants: hence the name “walking onions”. You can use it in the kitchen like you use common onions; it generally has a very strong taste.

Yard onion. It's one of the names - among which green, table, spring or salad onion – of the scallion. You can pick them before they mature, when the bulb didn't develop in full, and it has long green leafs: it's the chive.

Zaragoza. La Cebola Fuentes de Ebro is a protected Spanish onion grown in the Zaragoza province. White, crusty and juicy, it' better consumed fresh.

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