The onion, or onion bulb, is a pretty common ingredient found in the kitchen and is appreciated for adding rich and savory flavor to our dishes. It is a close relative of pungent vegetables like garlic, scallions, and leeks. What makes the onion extraordinary is its ability to make people teary when it is chopped. How does this tiny vegetable do this trick? The onion is composed of water and a whole lot of compounds. The one responsible for making us cry is the compound propyl sulfoxide which escapes into the air when the onion is sliced. When mixed with moisture, this compound turns into sulphuric acid, a pungent substance that irritates our eyes and make us teary.
Do you know that the onion we know of today was not only used for culinary purposes through its history? Ancient civilizations used onions as part of their religious rituals, too! Continue reading this article to know more about the history of the onion and its popular uses.
History of the Onion
Until today, it is not clear to archaeologists and historians the exact time and place of origin of the onion, although it is widely believed that the onion started being cultivated 5,000 years ago in central Asia. It is one of the earliest cultivated vegetables because it can be grown easily on various soil and climates and is easy to transport because it does not perish easily just like other crops.
Aside from culinary purposes, the onion is known for its use in art, medicine, and mummification. Ancient Egyptians considered the onion a symbol of eternity and endless life, making it an essential accessory in burial rituals and the famous mummification process.
During the Dark and Middle Ages, the onion was one of the primary food sources in Europe along with beans and cabbage. The onion was more valued than money as it was used both as food and as a medicinal remedy. The Renaissance period paved the way for the proliferation of the onion across the world. Some experts believe that the onion is the first ever vegetable planted by colonizers who arrived in North America.
Where Onions are Grown
The onion is easy to grow as it can be planted on any soil, any climate, and can be easily stored during any season. It can be grown mostly in the same regions where potatoes are planted. For best onion cultivation, fertile and well-drained soils are recommended.
The United Nations estimates that at least 175 countries in the world grown onions. On a global scale, around 9.2 million acres of onions are harvested globally every year. In 2017, the biggest producers of onions are China, India, and United States.
The onion is a good source of many nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese. According to FoodData Central, a 3.5-ounce onion contains:
- Calories 40
- Water 89%
- Protein 1.1 grams
- Carbs 9.3 grams
- Sugar 4.2 grams
- Fiber 1.7 grams
- Fat 0.1 grams
Types of Onions
Onions vary in shape, size and color. Below are the most common varieties of onions:
- White Onion. White onion is a medium-sized variant with mild flavor. It is best used for homemade salsa and guacamole recipes, and as garnish for hamburgers.
- Red Onion. Red onion has deep magenta skin color and has a mild flavor. It is best used for salads, sandwiches and burgers.
- Yellow Onion. Yellow onion is the most common variant of onion. It is large in size with light brown skin and mild flavor. It can be used to prepare French onion soup.
- Pearl Onion. Pearl onion is a small, white-skinned onion with both mild and sweet flavors. It is best used as garnish for cocktails drinks like Bloody Mary and Martini.
- Sweet Onion. Sweet onion is a larged-sized onion with light brown skin and sweet flavor. It is best cooked as onion ring and can also be caramelized.
- Shallots. This small-sized variant of onion is light purple in color and has an intense flavor. It is best used for salads and for sautéing.
The onion can be used for many purposes aside from being a food. Here are the popular uses of onions:
- Scar Remover. The onion can be used to remove scars and can also be used for other skin conditions.
- Plant Protection. The onion can be mixed with water, garlic, pepper, and soap flakes to create a repellent that will drive insects away from your plants.
- Paint Deodorizer. A bowl of water containing freshly sliced onions can absorb the smell of a new paint within a few hours.
- Mosquito Repellent. Rubbing an onion on your skin or ingesting it can keep away those annoying mosquitoes.
- Soothing Insect Sting. The swelling of skin caused by a bee sting can be remedied by placing a slice of onion on the stung area.
- Acne Remover. To get rid of bad pimples, you can mix crushed onions with water and apply it on your face.
- Wart Remover. The mixture of water, sliced onions, and crushed aspirin can also be used to shrink and sooth warts. The mixture is applied on the affected area and left for hours for better results.
Onions may have originated somewhere in East Asia, or possibly in the area that is modern day Iran and West Pakistan. They have been cultivated for 5000 years or more, and have found their way into nearly every cuisine.
Onions may be eaten raw, fried, grilled, in soups, pickled, blanched, in pancakes, etc.
How much does an onion weigh?
|Onion, White, Red, or Yellow|
|Large||3″ to 3 3/4″ dia||150g||5.3oz|
|Medium||2″ to 3″ dia||110g||3.9oz|
|Small||1″ to 2″ dia||70g||2.5oz|
|Slice, Large||(1/4″ thick from medium onion)||38g||1.3oz|
|Slice, Medium||(1/8″ thick from medium onion)||14g||0.5oz|
|Slice, thin||(from medium onion)||9g||0.3oz|
Conversion from grams to ounce: 28.3495231g(rounded to 28.35)= 1 oz