September 23, 2012

I love onions! Maybe it is from my mother. She liked onions, too. I remember her making this 7 layer sandwich thing for a party. When the party was over, the family had the opportunity to eat the leftovers. I remember my dad saying, “you put enough onions on here to choke a horse!” I loved it though, and so did mom.

So what’s so good about onions?

For years, onions have been known for their medicinal properties. Onions are full of fiber, vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, K, B1, B6, folic acid, biotin, and chromium. Onions are known to decrease cancer risk, decrease bronchial spasms associated with asthma, and are a heart healthy food, decreasing the amount of fat in the blood (i.e. decreasing blood cholesterol), and decreasing blood pressure. It is even believed that onions can improve the management of blood sugar. On top of all that, onions are low in calories. It seems as though onions may be one of the healthiest foods you could eat!

What are onions, and where did they come from?

Onions originated in Asia, and now, they are grown all over the world. Onions can grow in warm or cool climates. Surprisingly, onions are in the lily family. There are many different types of onions that come in different shapes and sizes. This includes large round onions (such as red, white, and yellow onions), small round onions (like pearl onions), onions that grow in clusters similar to garlic (like shallots), and stalk or stem-like onions (such as green onions or scallions, leeks, and chives). Onions can be sweet, or they can have a bite to them. The pungency varies with the freshness and the type of onion. This makes for a wide variety of looks and onion flavors, which makes for fun in the kitchen!

How do you select and store onions?

When selecting an onion, select one that is without blemishes and obvious signs of decay. Onions that have stems growing from them can be bitter (this does not include the stem-like onions). Onions should be stored in dark, well-ventilated, and dry places. Try not to store them near moisture, such as under the sink or near potatoes (potatoes release moisture). Do not store them in a paper bag, rather use a mesh bag, or a hanging wire basket. If you wish to refrigerate your onions, individually wrap them in foil. If you are using scallions, store them in the refrigerator in a breathable bag. Refrigerate cut onions, and store them in a container, or wrap them in plastic wrap. Onions do not last long once they have been cut (maybe 2-4 days). If you want to keep the onions for a longer period of time, chop or slice them, and freeze them.

What can you do with onions?

Onions can be eaten raw or cooked. Here are some ideas for using onions:
1)  add raw or dried onions to a green salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw

2) garnish soup with raw onions, like diced chives or sliced scallions

3) sauté veggies with raw or dried onions, such as broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower

4) add raw diced onions to chili

5) dice raw onions and mix them with  diced cucumbers and tomatoes, vinegar, and salt for a light snack

6) pickle onions and serve them with a cold veggie or sandwich plate

7) add onions to warm sauces (like marinara) or gravies

8) sauté onions and add them to meats, like poultry, fish, and red meat

9) add raw or grilled onions to a burger or sandwich

10) add onions to cooking oil when frying or sautéing, as this may decreases the risk of the oil becoming hydrogenated (I learned this in a nutrition course, but have had trouble finding a source), and will help decrease the smell of fried food in the house

~ Cece


Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable on the Market by Aliza Green

Total Nutrition: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need Edited by Victor Herbert, M.D., F.A.C.P. and Genell J. Subak-Sharpe, M.S.

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno N.D. with Lara Pizzorno M.A., L.M.T.

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