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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

The Onion

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Either you like them or you don’t. Some eat them raw, others prefer them cooked. This vegetable is one of the most popular. It can be prepared in so many ways and added to hundreds of recipes to enhance the flavor of the dish. Throughout the centuries onions are believed to have magical powers, been objects of worship and used in mummification as a preservative. They were also used in making ointments for healing aches and pains.

Possibly the onion has been around before farming or even before writing was invented. It is thought to have been cultivated for over 5,000 years. It could be the earliest cultivated crop because it is less perishable than other vegetables making it transportable. It is easy to grow in many types of soils and climates. In some cultures, it was used to sustain life because of its high-water content. It prevented thirst and could be dried and preserved for later consumption.

In the Middle Ages the three main vegetables in the diets of Europeans were beans, cabbage and onions. The Pilgrims brought them over on the Mayflower. Native American Indians used wild onions in seasoning food and as a vegetable, raw or cooked. They also used them in making syrups, as poultices and as an ingredient in dyes. One of the most versatile vegetables, the onion can be consumed raw, carmalized, marinated, grilled or roasted.

It not only provides flavor, it has important nutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals. High in Vitamin C, it is a reliable source of fiber, calcium and iron. The onion also contains folic acid and sodium. It has no fat. It contains Quercetin, a flavonoid (one category of antioxidant compounds), that helps delay or slow the oxidative damage to cells and tissues of the body. Major dietary sources of quercetin include tea, apples and onions. Onions may be among the vegetables that not only give flavor to our food but also have health benefits.

More than 20 states grow onions commercially with Washington, Idaho and Oregon being the largest producers. Four hundred and fifty truckloads of onions are consumed each day! Onion consumption has risen over the last decades to one person consuming twenty pounds per year! That’s a lot of onions! One serving of onion is only 45 calories, 2.7 grams of fiber, 4.9 grams of protein and 143 grams of water. That may be why it was eaten by some that believed it sustained life when traveling over great distances.

One year, my husband said he would like to grow onions. When the onions sets became available in February, we purchased only one set which is about 100 tiny onions! Since he was limited in his mobility, we decided to plant them in window boxes which we placed along the porch railing. I filled the boxes with good soil and he put in the onion sets. In what seemed like a short amount of time, we saw green onions coming up. We were excited and could already taste them in a fresh garden salad. As soon as the first batch was ready to harvest, he planted some more. That year was a good one for green onions. We enjoyed them all summer. We let some grow longer to get bigger and we harvested them in early fall. How do you like your onions?

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