“Oh Vidalia, Vidalia, you always gotta make me cry…”
How many of us have that story of cutting up onions while bawling our eyes out? How many holiday occasions or church functions have had us cutting up large amounts of onions and dreading it and crying in our shoes?
Thank you Allium cepa L., with your syn-Propanethial-S-oxide. You’re a tear jerker!
Did you know that the onion is a cultivar of the allium? Garlic, Leek, Chive, Chinese, and Onion are bulb plants, all relatives. There are 3 main varieties, yellow, red, and white. It is an amazing vegetable that can be eaten cooked, raw, or pickled. It is a biennial plant that has been actively cultivated for over 7000 years. And we LOVE IT!!
The earliest cultivation of the onion is believed to have occurred throughout Eastern & Western Asia. Traces of stored onions have been well documented by archaeologists in ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman tombs, as well as Bronze Age settlements. The ancients revered the onion for it’s medicinal properties and was often seen as a symbol of immortality. Historians believe that since the onion is high in water content (as much as 89 percent), explains the main reason why it was so valued by desert and arid based cultures.
The Egyptians also valued the onion for it’s antiseptic qualities, and used the onion widely in their funerary imagery. Traces of onions were found in the eye sockets of King Rameses IV, due to their belief that the concentric rings in the onion represented a strong symbol of immortality.
It was widely traded throughout the far east due to it’s durability in storage and as a easily transportation item. Since it was so widely traded, the onion made is way to Greece, Rome, and Europe. The Greeks and Romans believed that onions aided ocular ailments, sleep, dysentery, and many other disorders, as well as appreciating it (like the Egyptians) for it’s antiseptic qualities.
These antiseptic properties were newly discovered by physicians during the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in Europe, during the late 1300’s. The wounds of those affected were lanced and packed with mixtures of stewed onions, figs, and honey. Gross, but highly effective.
When Europeans brought varieties of the onion, to cultivate in North America during the Age of Discovery, they found that varieties of the wild onion were widely available and used extensively in Native American cooking. They did plant their cultivars, and so these three main varieties became the ones most widely used in the U.S. today.
Scientists today point out that onions are indeed an amazing nutritional and medicinal resource. Onions are highly rich in sulphur content. Studies have shown that onions have benefited cancer patients, by reduction of tumors and prevention of free radicals. Additionally, they have pointed out onions aid sleeping, depression, and help those fighting immune disorders and inflammation.
Onions, you make us cry, but thank you.
Peace & Blessins’