Friday, May 27, 2011

Onion - The Magical Bulb

Allium - Ornamental Onion
 Yesterday we came out of the dental clinic, and next to the sidewalk were these purple Allium, or Flowering Onion.  They look like little pom-poms on the end of a stem with no leaves.  If I had to choose one word to describe them, I'd pick 'dainty.'  Allium, an onion genus, with about 1250 species, is one of the largest plant genera in the world.  Who'd ever think this flower would be related to an onion?

Allium Cepa - Edible Onion
 Onions, whose botanical name is Allium Cepa, are one of the oldest known vegetables.  Over 600 species are found all over the world, and are a native to Asia.  Ancient Egyptians regarded the spherical bulb as the symbol of the universe.

Peeling onions makes us cry.  The reason why is because onions contain a chemical compound that, when released into the air, irritates the tear glands in our eyes, resulting in the production of tears.  Some say that chewing gum while peeling an onion will stop this from happening. 

Onions have gobs of nutritional benefits. At our house we love onions and think they add flavor and pizazz to most recipes.  We put them in our salads, casseroles, soups, stews, sandwiches, on top of roast beef and steaks.  They contain only 60 calories per cup, have a very low amount of sodium, and are a rich source of fiber, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients for our good health.  I did a bit of research about these magical bulbs, and this is what I find.....
  • Onions contain allyl disulphide and allium, the two phyto-chemical compounds that help the body fight against different types of cancers.
  • They have anti-diabetic properties and help in lowering sugar levels in diabetics.
  • They are good cholesterol sources.  According to studies, individuals who consume one onion every day raise the levels of good cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL) in their body.
  • Onions contain a flavonoid called 'quercetin,' which helps in reducing and eliminating effects of free radicals.  When onions are simmered to make soup, their quercetin does not get degraded.  It simply gets transferred into the water part of the soup.  By using a low-heat method of preparing soup, the health benefits of the onion are preserved.
  • Onions purify the blood, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Onions reduce the growth of cancerous cells and tumors and prevent the development of different types of cancers, like ovarian, prostate, colon, breast, and cancer of the esophagus.
  • Onions have anti-inflammatory properties and reduce the pain and swelling due to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis and complications due to asthma.
  • Onions, especially spring onions, are known to help sinus infections.  Smelling the juice of a spring onion or a slice of onion is a popular remedy in China for curing sinus infections.
In our area, the Kwik Trip Stores use onions as one of their "leaders."  Customers are led into KT for their every-day onion price of 38 cents a pound.  We think that's a bargain you just can't beat with a stick!

As a little girl, I'd walk up to our garden in the field, pull green onions out of the ground, clean 'em off a little, and chomp down like a rabbit.  If I was in the house, I'd first dip them into salt, and ooooohhhh, that was even better yet. One thing for sure, if onions are as nutritional as they say......well, this chick should live to be over 100.  Cuz, onions have been in my diet since I was old enough to chew!