- 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 Botanical Description.:
The onion probably originated in East Asia, but has spread around the world and has developed numerous varieties, including shallot, chive, and scallion. The name may come from onion onion?or singleness as a bulb. The plant is related to the lily botanically; chemically it is a less piquant cousin of garlic in taste, but it is unique in its lachrymatory properties. It is said to be the basis for the name of Chicago, which comes from an Indian phrase meaning the place where the wild onion (or garlic) grows? Currently, it is the most popular herb, since it is nutritionally satisfying in addition to being flavorful; people, such as the Hebrews who made their exodus from Egypt 3000 years ago, have long favored it as a basic food. Homeopaths use a dilute extract as a treatment for colds, but most other medical systems use it in a non-specific fashion as a warm, invigorating and satisfying tonic herb. It is sometimes used topically to treat insect stings, but personal experience suggests
it lacks any significant anti-allergy properties. It has mild anti-microbial qualities and has been used in wound treatment. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.
Botanical Features: herbaceous bulbous plant, with a biennial seed production, annual bulb production, the latter being the edible part. Extremely developed, ramified and superficial roots.
Tubular, waxy leaves, which are dark green on the aerial part; at the base (tunic), they are thin, wrap over and protective on the outside, while they are meaty on the inside, and they accumulate reserve substances in order to form the bulb. The floral stalk is rigid, hollow and waxy and the plant is over a metre tall, with an umbrella inflorescence and spherical shape. The hermaphrodite flowers are white, the fruit a capsule. Reproduction occurs through the seeds.
The lily family of plants includes such well-known ornamentals as tulips (Tulipa), lilies (Lilium), and hyacinths (Muscari), but only a few genera are cultivated as vegetables, including asparagus (Asparagus). However, the vast majority of the vegetables comes from one genus, Allium, the onion. Varieties of Allium cepa fall into several differnt groups according to their colour, shape, and use.
Basically, onions fall into the following classifications:
A. cepa includes all common western round or globe onions with single bulbs which, in their immature state, are used as spring onions; the aggregate onions with multiple underground bulbs as shallots, the every ready, and potato onions; also the tree onions known as the Egyptian or top-set onions which reproduce by forming miniature self-planting bulbs on top of the stem. Both of the last two groups are multiplier onions.
A. fistulosum is the most important in oriental countries. Although known as the Welsh onion, it has nothing to do with Wales. In North America, it is called a scallion and likely to mean green shallots. Hybrids of these last two species account for most of the hundreds of onion varieties and cultivars.
A porrum is the leek, but also includes a variety called the bunching pear onion.
A kurrat is a species which fills the role of leek in the Near and Middle East.
A. scorodoprasum is the species usually called rocambole.
A. sativum is garlic.
A. ampeloprasum is the wild ancestor of the leek and a species which exists in many forms. One of them is the elephant garlic.
A ursinum is the wild garlic or ramsons.
Onions contain about 8% sugar in the form of glucose and saccharose and up to 90% water. They also contain protein, calcium, sulfur, fluoride, provitamin A, B complex vitamins, and vitamins C and E; and have long been used for medicinal purposes. We now know that there are more than 100 sulfur compounds in onions that have anti-inflammatory effects. However, many are known to change readily when heated or are broken down after cutting. As with garlic, onions also contain the volatile, natural antibiotic oil called allicin, responsible for its pungent flavour.
European, Asian, and Native American medicines are filled with onion treatments. Some of them include cough relief during colds and their use as poultices drawing poisons from wounds and ulcers. Even in relatively modern times, onion poultices are used on the soles of the feet to reduce high fevers or placed on the chest to relieve congestion. One ancient remedy included onion tea to relieve cholera, fevers, and headaches, as well as being treatments for gout, arthritis, soothing burns, and speeding healing. Modern research is proving that eating onions and garlic reduces LDL (low density lipoprotein) or cholesterol, responsible for clogging the arteries. These anti-clotting properties make them doubly helpful to the circulatory system. Onions have also been known to lower blood sugar levels, and they have readily demonstrated their antimicrobial properties.
Using garlic or onion pills does not have nearly the effect on the system as eating the fresh product. Since many of the beneficial properties have yet to be identified, they cannot be fully reproduced in any laboratory. Only the natural food itself can have the right combination of enzymes, sulfides, precursors, etc. that benefit human health. Onions also have substances called saponins that fight against cancer. To put it simply, saponins help the cell DNA to stop producing bad cells and make only good ones.
Onions contain hundreds of various compounds that aid in better health, including those that prevent arterial buildup of fats that can cause heart attacks or strokes. These compounds also promote secretions in the upper respiratory tract that move along, carrying out harmful microbes in the process. When these secretions are allowed to stagnate, microbes have the opportunity to multiply. Onions can help fight off bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the body. Chewing raw onion for at least three minutes is said to kill any bacteria in the mouth that might be causing toothaches or the gums to bleed. Putting a slice of onion directly on an insect bite will cut down on the itching and prevent infection. Using warmed, raw onions as a poultice will draw out any foreign matter lodged in the skin. Poultices can also be used to draw out any inflammation or fevers. Onions also contain compounds that help with digestion.
When onions are cut, the cell walls are damaged, releasing a sulfur compound called propanethial-S-oxide that floats into the air. The chemical, identified in 1985 by researchers at the University of St. Louis in Missouri, turns into sulfuric acid when it comes into contact with water. This explains why it stings if it gets into the eyes or a cut. This effect can be lessened by slicing fresh onions under cold running water, which technically, will dilute the sulfur compound before it can float up into the air. Another way, is to chill the onion for an hour or so in the refrigerator before it is sliced. The cold temperatures slow the movement of the atoms in the sulfur compound so that it is not able to float up into the air to reach the eyes. Depending on the onion, some will have a high level of this pyruvate, while in others, it will be lower.
Onions should not be stored in the same area as potatoes as they will emit a gas that speeds up maturity, causing each to rot faster. Storing onions on a rope enables the air to circulate around them reducing, the possibility of diseases and molds. It is also attractive and a convenient storing method. In order to plait a bunch, firmly tie two onions at the base then wind the leaves of each onion firmly around the string with each bulb barely resting on the onion below. When the top of the string is reached, tie a firm knot around the top and then hang to dry. As onions are needed, they can be cut from the rope.
With all its powerful aroma, the onion is not immune to pests. The onion fly larvae can tunnel into the bulbs, causing the stems to wilt and become yellow. Seedlings and small plants are most susceptible and usually die. Crop rotation is advised to avoid this and other problems, rather than applying insecticides. Removal of affected onions from the area is also advised, but they are not to be put into the compost pile. When attacked by stem eelworm, bulbs become distorted, crack, soften, and then die. Should this happen, dispose of plant debris and affected plants, then rotate the crops (see separately Crop Rotation). Companion planting is another solution and planting parsley is said to keep onion flies away.
Boiling onions are very small white or yellow onions and reach about two inches in diameter. They are left whole in soups and stews.
Bulb onions are perennials cultivated as biennials and normally seed in their second year. These include the pungent storage onions (yellow, white, and red), sweet onions, pearl onions, boiling onions, and the flat small onions (cipolline) that Italians use for pickling. Bulb onions may have brown, red, white, or yellow skin; be round or elongated, spindle-shaped or flattened; and are encircled by several layers of dry skin. Sizes range from very small to over four inches in diameter.
Creaming onions are fresh onions sold by the bunch. Each onion has a large, white bulb still attached to a green stalk. Usually, they are the yellow onions picked young, but can sometimes be overly mature green onions. Their crisp flavour is hotter than green onions.
Pearl onions are even small, about an inch thick. They have a thin, white wrapper and white flesh that is crisp and sweet. These are perfect for marinating or pickling. There is also a Pink Pearl variety. (see separately)
Red onions are an Italian specialty. Their thin, red to purple skin and mild flesh make them especially popular as a decorative salad onion. Like Spanish onions, they are sweet and mild, but have a thicker, coarser texture than the Spanish. These onions make a colourful addition to any salad, but their colour can bleed into other ingredients if sauted with them. The red Semian onion is a popular variety in Italy. It has an unusually elongated, narrow shape, and can grow to be a foot in length.
Sweet onions are mild, juicy, crisp onions that can be eaten raw. They are relatively low in sulfur, making their flavour very mild. Since their water content is about 85%, they are juicy. However, because of these traits, their storage capacity is limited to just a couple of months. Growers use expensive atmosphere-controlled coolers to extend their market season, but home gardeners must consider them seasonal and perishable. A sweet onion generally weighs about half a pound. The best known ones are Vidalia, from Georgia, USA; the Texas 1015 Supersweet; Mauis from Hawaii; Walla Walla from Washington State; Arizona; California Imperial; and one from Ontario, Canada, called the Norfolk. Sweetened Sandwich is a long-day hybrid that actually sweetens in storage, but its pungency also increases. Long term varieties include Blanco Duro, Stuttgarten, Ebenezer, Red Creole, Yellow Tongue, and Yula.
White storage onions can weigh more than a pound each, but their keeping quality is not as long as that of the yellow onion. The white onions have a white papery wrap and a slightly sharper, cleaner flavour, and are used extensively in Mexican cooking. They are also prized in Italy and Spain for their sweet flavour, which can vary from mild to strong, depending on the variety.
Yellow storage onions are the same as the common cooking onions. They can be as small as an apricot or as large as an orange. They can be round or oval with a heavy brown wrapper. They are hot if eaten raw, but the heat dissipates during cooking. Spanish or Bermuda onions are actually very large yellow onions. Because of their high water content, they are sweeter and milder than the common yellow onions. Red or yellow onions have a bioflavonoid called quercetin, but white onions do not.
Albion is a medium sized round onion with a white bulb.
Alisa Craig is a large variety, round and straw-coloured with a mild flavour.
Buffalo is a high-yielding onion sown in the summer and harvested the following year. It has round firm bulbs with a good flavour.
Kelsae is a large round onion with mild-tasting flesh, but it does not store well.
Marshalls Giant Fen Globe is an old heavy cropping variety with a mild flavour.
Red Baron is a beautiful dark red-skinned onion with a strong flavour.
Rijnsberger is large, pale yellow, round, and an excellent keeper.
Sturon is an old high-yielding variety with straw-coloured skin and shows an excellent resistance from going to seed.
Stuttgarter Giant is a reliable variety with flattened bulbs and a mild flavour. It is a good keeper and slow to bolt.
Torpedo, or Red Italian, is a spindle-shaped onion that is mild-flavoured, but does not store well.
Below are some onion varieties:
TEXAS SPRING SWEETS
WALLA WALLA SWEETS
Mild sweet onions include the following varieties:
Spanish onions: known for their mild and delicately sweet flavor.
Bermuda onions: another category of mild onions that come in red, white, or yellow.
Walla-Walla Sweet onions: originally came from Corsica at the beginning of the 20th century and arrived in Walla-Walla, Washington where they are grown today.
Texas Sweets 1015: available mid spring through early summer.
Among the hybrid sweet varieties are Vidalia which come from Vidalia, Georgia and Maui onions that come from the island of Maui in Hawaii where the volcanic soil contributed to their sweetness.
Know Your Onions:
"Know your onions" was a term coined in the 1920s to indicate that the many varieties of onions that were cultivated over the years never acquired standardized names from one locale to another. Knowing your onions meant becoming familiar with those varieties that were grown and sold in the area where you live. In later years "knowing your onions" was an idiomatic expression used to describe a thorough knowledge of a subject.
Onions are grown in practically every one of the United States, with varieties developed specifically for each climate. There is hardly a country in the world that doesn't grow multiple varieties of the allium family, since wild varieties existed from prehistoric times. Today onions are bred to adapt well to their different climatic conditions.
Some varieties were quite small like pickling onions that were about one-half inch in diameter, while others became giants. One of the largest onions ever grown appeared in Scotland and weighed in at 6 1/2 pounds.
Onions come in a variety of colors--white, brown, yellow, and red (or purple), while flavors range from mild and sweet to strong and biting. Nearly all onions will make you cry when you cut them--the stronger they are, the more tears you will shed.
Onion breeders closely studied the onion's sulfur compounds, resulting over time in the development of several varieties of sweet onions that were high in water and sugar content. Sweet onions are mostly grown in California and Texas, with Georgia, New Mexico, Washington, and Arizona producing them in smaller quantities.
- 1.Onion,Classifications,Tradition,History,Magical,Modern Updated.
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