Onions have been an important part of people’s diet since the beginning of time. It is believed that the valiant onion has its origins in Asia, though it is likely that onions have been growing on just about every continent for a very long time. Their use can be traced back to 35oo B.C. They were one of the few foods that would not spoil during the bleak winter months, which destroyed so much of early peoples’ crops. As our ancestors realized the onion’s durability they began to grow it as a crop for food. Once the onion had made its way to Egypt it became more than just food. Ancient Egyptians worshiped the onion. They believed that its spherical shape and concentric rings were symbols of eternity. Ancient Egyptian artists made gold renditions of onions that have survived the passing of time and are still around today. Ancient Greeks believed that the onion would “lighten the balance of the blood”. When Greek influence faded as it fell under the Roman empire’s expanded territory, the onions influence as a powerful vegetable did not fade with it. The Romans used the onion to rub down gladiators before battle, believing the onion juice would “firm up their muscles”. As history progressed, the onion continued to be viewed as holding valuable medicinal qualities. During the middle ages it was used to alleviate headaches, cure snakebites, and halt hair loss. Puritans brought the onion with them on their voyage across the Atlantic and probably served them during the first Thanksgiving meal. The onion possess a long and stories history and is one of the most important vegetables in people’s diet even today.
Common onions are available in three colors: yellow, red, and white. Yellow onions are full flavored and a reliable standby for cooking just about anything. The turn a rich dark brown color when cooked and have a tangy, sweet, flavor. The red onion is perfect for grilling, char-broiling, and in fresh dishes, such as salad. White onions are the traditional onion found in Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and and sweet flavor when sauteed. Scallions are onions that were picked before maturing and developing a bulb. Scallions have a milder taste than most transitional onions and are used in soups, noodle and seafood dishes.
How to Select, Cut, Prepare and Store an Onion
Selecting an onion should not be very difficult process. However, to achieve the best taste and most flavor be sure to purchase the freshest onion available. There are several simple things to look for when you are in the produce section of you local grocery store. If you are looking for dry onion bulbs, ensure they are firm and have little to no scent. Avoid bulbs that are soft, have cuts, bruises or blemishes of any kind. If you are purchasing whole peeled onions, try to select ones with an outside layer that does not show any signs of being dehydrated. When buying fresh-cut onions, be sure to purchase them before the their expiration date.
Cutting an onion is a simple exercise that does not have to result in tears. For step by step instructions on how to properly cut an onion see this link. The four most common ways to prepare an onion are to either saute, caramelize, grill, or roast it.
Your onions should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place with plenty of air movement. DO NOT store your onions in plastic bags. A lack of ventilation will drastically reduce their storage life. Peeled onions should be stored in a refrigerator. Cut onions can be stored in a plastic bag and kept fresh for up to seven days. If you buy pre-cut onions be sure to keep them refrigerated and use them before the expiration date.
The onion is one of the most common and versatile vegetables in the world. It is used in almost every type of cuisine. From Asian to Italian, it is a featured ingredient because of its versatility and unique flavor. If, like me, you cook regularly you are no doubt familiar with the onion in all its forms. No matter how simple or complex a dish you are making it will no doubt include the onion in some form. Many people are not aware of the onion’s long and storied history. It has been proscribed mythical status by certain ancient cultures. The Egyptians thought so highly of it the immortalized its likeness with gold statues. Most ancient societies considered the onion to have special healing powers. While the onion may not be a cure all medication, it is an extremely useful ingredient featured in almost every meal you eat. Its time to give the onion the respect it deserves as one of the oldest and most important vegetables around.