March 2013 Newsletter
What do you consider to be the crown jewel of the vegetable family? Broccoli, tomatoes? Well I’m here to tell you that for me it’s the onion. Why the onion, you might ask? The onions’ uses in food and in medicine, mostly relegated to folk and home remedies in this day and age, are almost limitless. The lowly onion is one of the oldest vegetables in history. They go back to the bronze age of 5,000 B.C. They belong to the lily family and there are over 600 species spread over the world. The ancient Egyptians worshipped it and believed its’ spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternal life. There is also evidence that the onion was used in ancient Egyptian burials. The cultivated onion was brought to North America by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 expedition; however, they found that strains of wild onions already grew throughout North America. The American Indians used wild onions raw, cooked as a vegetable, as a seasoning, a poultice, and as a dye. I remember while growing up that my mom would color eggs at Easter time with the shells of onions. It was her preferred method simply because as she grew up that was the only kind of egg dye that they had. An old folk remedy that I tried this winter was to cut onions in half, place them in saucers, and set them around the house to help ward off the flu. I read about this in a health prevention magazine where they then tested the onion and it was found to contain a lot of bacteria related to the flu. I would do anything not to get the flu, so I thought the least I could do was to try it. So far, so good, no flu yet! I talked with a niece who is vacationing in Florida and she told me how she made a poultice of cooked onions and mustard and applied it to her Dad’s chest, head, and feet, while he was suffering from the flu. It took away his fever and headache. Another friend of mine made a syrup by simmering chopped onions in water for 20 minutes, then strained it, and let it cool, then gave it to her 2 month old child to clear up chest congestion. Do you consider onions as a vegetable to be used as a side dish in the same way as corn, green beans, and carrots, or do you use onions as a seasoning ingredient or maybe not at all? I have a friend who is always asking if my dishes have onions in them, for if they do, “I’m definitely not eating it.” HOW in the world do you make chili soup, potato soup, scalloped potatoes, or beef stew without onions? Several years ago we became friends with a doctor and his family from Germany. They stayed with us for several weeks and he shared many stories from his childhood during the war. He told how he and his brothers would scavenge the fields where potatoes and onions were raised and salvage what was left just so his family would have food on the table. But this was something most everyone was doing so there were very few to be had, with most days producing only onions. His mother would cook them and serve them in a very thin broth, but it was what kept them alive. There are a lot of health benefits in the onion. It contains chemical compounds with potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anti-cancer, and anti-oxidant properties such as quercetin. Quercetin is a plant-derived flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains. Some other nutritional benefits the onion boasts; they can provide a cure for colds, coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. They reduce the risk of colon cancer, inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the abdominal tract, reduce blood pressure, they also help reduce blood clotting and platelet clumping, treats diabetes and heart disease. WOW! During my research on the onion it sounds like it’s the cure for everything. Onions are sodium, fat, and cholesterol free, and provide dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. A half cup of onions contains only 30 calories. The onion is the main flavor enhancer in most dishes that we prepare, but no other vegetable will make the tears flow like the onion. I have found that cutting onions under cold running water will eliminate all the tears. So with all these wonderful benefits, the onions’ status should be elevated to royalty, and should find its way into our kitchens every day.
I wanted to add some recipes for onions, but they are very hard to find.
Here’s one of the main ways I use onions. Take a whole onion and cut a deep X into it. Put a small chunk of butter into it and a small amount of beef base. Wrap it tightly in tinfoil and put it on the grill or among hot coals in a campfire. You can also put them into a casserole dish and bake them in the oven at 350 for about 1 ½ hours.