Onions are a staple everywhere in the world. They’re packed full of flavor, nutrients, and potential. They’re an unsung superfood that doesn’t nearly get enough attention or recognition, despite being a frequent ingredient in many dishes. It’s not as exotic as some of the other superfoods out there, nor is it as interesting for bloggers to gush about. Why influence people into getting an ingredient they likely already have in their pantry?
This article is set to change that. Onions are a superhero in the kitchen, and there are so many amazing things you can do with them. You can slow cook them to pull out the natural sweetness in a process known as caramelization. Onions are also a great item to ferment and pickle. You can draw out so many amazing flavors, making them sweet, sharp, aromatic, or savory.
In short, you can do almost anything with them. You can make onions into a jam or a tart. You can put them into your breakfast, your lunch, your dinner, your snack, or your dessert. They’re a staple for a reason, and they’re a hero to the kitchen. So let’s give the humble onion some love.
1. We’ve Been Using Them for Millenia
The onion is intrinsically linked to human evolution. There’s evidence that the first onion harvest occurred between five and 7.000 years ago. How long humans had been eating wild onion is another matter entirely. The simple fact is that onions have been part of our human history for thousands of years and are likely one of the first crops we ever actively grew ourselves. When you look at it this way, you can sort of say that human history is onion history.
2. They Can Be Prepared in So Many Different Ways
Onions can be baked, cut up and fried, caramelized, pickled, and so much more. They can be dried out and bought as a spice, even though the process is typically more than a standard home or even restaurant can manage. Still, the fact that you can buy bulk onions in powder or granule form and then add them to the cooking process to breathe life back into the flavor is astounding. They’re a true staple in almost every type of meal and cuisine and for good reason. With the sheer number of ways you can prep, preserve, and cook with them, it’s no wonder they’re such a great addition to so many delicious dishes.
Just the fact that onions can be eaten raw as well as cooked is huge. Raw they offer bite, cooked they can be anything from savory to sweet. With so many ways to prep them, they can truly suit almost any flavor profile.
3. They’re Part of the Allium Family
The allium family is full of our favorite flavor-boosting ingredients, including garlic, leeks, and chives. When you look at these ingredients, their familial resemblance is obvious. All of these products can be added to almost any dish and prepped in a way to either extract their savory or sweet profiles.
4. They Contain Sulfuric Compounds
Chopping onions will make you cry, but have you ever wondered why or even how to stop? While going to funny extremes like wearing swimming goggles is always an option, the easier answer is to simply remove the central bulb. This bulb, where the onion is actively growing, contains sulfuric compounds. These compounds are released into the air when you cut into it. It’s the onion’s self-defense against being eaten, but it can easily be worked around by simply removing that inner bulb before chopping too much into it.
5. Onions are Packed Full of Vitamins
Onions are an excellent source of vitamins C, B9, B6, Potassium, and an antioxidant known as quercetin. Vitamin C is likely the most famous of the vitamins in this list, as it’s commonly taken as a supplement when you’re feeling under the weather. This is because vitamin C plays a big role in your immune system and can help you fight off viral infections. This vitamin also plays a role in speeding up wound healing and in absorbing iron from what you eat. A single medium-sized onion provides 10% of your daily recommended iron intake.
The B vitamins are all essential for cell growth, boosting your metabolism, and play a key role in the formation of your red blood cells. Finally, potassium and quercetin; both the antioxidant and potassium plays a role in lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, and boosting your immune system.
6. Onions are a Symbol of Good Luck
Onions are actually seen as a symbol of good luck. In China, for example, spring onions are eaten on New Year’s Day to help bring luck and good health for the upcoming year. This is because the Mandarin word for spring onion sounds similar to the Mandarin word for smart. As a result, spring onions are sometimes given as a gift to a newborn. This onion may also make its way to the front door alongside a tiny head of lettuce or tossed into a good luck salad.
7. Onions Come in Many Colors
Onions come in many varieties and, as a result, many different colors. The most common types include white onions, yellow onions, sweet onions and, of course, the vibrant red onion. Fun fact; the reason why red onions are called that instead of purple onions is because there were simply fewer parent names of colors in the past. Anything that was red going towards purple was known simply as red, the same way we’d say vermillion and carmine are both red. The name stuck, even though our naming system for colors has become massively more complex.
8. The Word Onion Comes from Latin
The word we use in English comes from the Latin word “unio”, which means one or unity. This word refers simply to how onions grow as a single bulb and from a single bulb. While not the most exciting name in origin, it does show just how universal onions were throughout history.
FAQs about Onions
What are the health benefits of onions?
Onions offer several health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants and contain vitamins C and B6, folate, and potassium. Onions also have anti-inflammatory properties and may help improve heart health, regulate blood sugar levels, and support a healthy immune system. Additionally, they may have anticancer properties and contribute to digestive health.
How do I prevent tears while cutting onions?
Cutting onions often leads to tearing up due to the release of a gas called syn-propanethial-S-oxide when the onion cells are damaged. To reduce tears, you can try chilling the onion in the refrigerator before cutting, which slows down the release of the gas. You can also cut onions under running water or wear goggles to shield your eyes. Using a sharp knife and ensuring proper ventilation in the kitchen can also help minimize the tear-inducing effects.
Are all onions the same?
No, there are various types of onions with different flavors, textures, and colors. Some common onion varieties include yellow onions, red onions, white onions, and sweet onions. Yellow onions are the most commonly used and have a strong flavor. Red onions have a milder taste and are often consumed raw in salads and sandwiches. White onions have a sharp and crisp flavor, while sweet onions, such as Vidalia onions, have a mild and sweet taste. Each variety of onion can be suitable for specific culinary applications based on its flavor and texture.
Do you know any fun facts about onions? Share them in the comments below!