Onion, the “Healing” vegetable

April 17, 2012

Onions, Onions, Onions!!!

Let me just start by saying there is a LOT of information about onions online!

Some people absolutely despise them… as a matter of fact a few of my really good girlfriends do… but thank goodness Alex, like me, absolutely loves them! So when we get together and cook, it is one of our guilty pleasures to slow cook onions to the point where they become so sweet that they literally melt in your mouth! Who needs dessert when you have onions!?

How to select and store onions

Large onions are usually classified within two main types: spring/summer or storage onions. Spring/summer onions usually grow in warm climates and have a mild or sweet taste.

The Maui Sweet Onion (in season from April to June),the Vidalia onion (in season May through June) and the Walla Walla onion (in July and August)

Maui Sweet Onion

Picture Source: http://www.mrpineapple.com/shopping/shopexd.asp?id=9

Vidalia Onion

Picture Source: http://charlesmobley.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/eat-more-vidalia-onions/

Walla Walla Onions

Picture Source: http://www.specialtyproduce.com/blog/index.php/2009/11/29/farmers-market-report-week-of-nov-29-2009/

would be considered as spring/summer onions. As for the storage onions, they are grown in colder climates and are dried out after harvest for several months. It is the drying process that gives them their dry and crisp skin layer. The fresher the onion the tighter the skin (layers) will be. Their flavor is usually more pronounced (and results in the known onion breath) and they are usually named after their color: white, yellow, or red.

The sweet Spanish onion usually falls within that type.

Sweet Spanish Onion

Picture Source: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-spanish-onion.htm

Onions also come in smaller shapes and forms like green onion, pearl onion, and shallot.

Green Onions

Picture Source: http://www.pachd.com/free-images/food-images.html

Pearl Onions

Picture Source: http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Pearl_onion


Picture Source: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000PULZU4/outriderbooks

When shopping for onions, you want to look for a firm bulb.

An old trick to help store your onions for them to last up to six months is apparently to keep them nice and tight in a pair of old (but clean) nylons. Tie a knot after each onion to compartment them individually and make them last longer. Is it said to work best with yellow onion but is also doable with other kinds.

Cooking Tip

One thing nobody likes about onions is the tears that follow up in their preparation. I have attempted to try this next trick which is suppose to minimize or stop the tears from coming down while you cut an onion. The trick is to hold a slice of bread in your mouth while cutting the onion. I will have to get back to you on the effectiveness of this suggestion as we kinda got carried away with how funny it looked, and the experiment took a turn of mockery and ended in laughter. Tears did come out, but their source is untraceable to either the onion or the good times! But please be my guest! Next time you have a dinner party with family or friends, give it a try as it makes for great conversation… for everybody but the one with the bread in their mouth! :D You should hold the piece of bread for it to stick out of your mouth on a 90 degree angle, the bread is said to absorb the fumes of the onion and prevent them from reaching your eyes. Putting them in the fridge prior to their preparation is said to help reduce the tears. There’s always the good old goggles trick, some have a preference for the swimming goggles, some opt for the bold statement of ski goggles and some people narrowed down their selection to actual onion cutting goggles. Whichever model you opt for, know that you look great doing it! For a little cleaner aesthetic, my friend’s aunt lights up a candle right by her side while she cuts the onion and she found that trick to be very helpful in the prevention of tears.

For the times when you have to cook big quantities of food (ex. triple recipe spaghetti sauce) and you have a LOT of onions to cook, just like garlic, the onions tend to leave some odor traces behind. Gladly for me I don’t smell much so it doesn’t bother me but Alex tends to have a much more sensitive nose. A good trick to get rid of the smell is to use dry salt as an exfoliating scrub to remove the smell. You can also choose to mix in some lemon juice with your salt for a fresher smell.

For soup, instead of cooking with a peeled onion, some will opt instead to use a whole onion. In broth, not only the onion skin will add a nice color but you will also benefit from all the nutriments found in it.

Nutriments and fun facts!

The nutriments found in an onion tend to be concentrated on the outer layers of the flesh. In order to maximize your nutritional intake, try to take off as little layers as you can when prepping your onions.  Onions are very high in polyphenol (they are one of the largest categories of phytonutrients in food). As a matter of fact, onions contain more polypherol than garlic and leeks, tomatoes, carrots and red bell peppers. Between 1 to 7 weekly servings of onion have been shown to minimize risks to colorectal, laryngeal and ovarian cancer. For decreased risk of oral and esophageal cancer, your onion intake would have to rise to one serving per day, which is equivalent to approximately ½ a cup. Onions are high in vitamin C and B6, contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, germanium, fiber, and are high in sulphur (mineral contained in all human cells). Sulphur is also known as the beauty mineral with his high concentration found in hair, skin and nails. As it is the case for many vegetables, freshly chopped raw onions seem to have higher health benefit then non-fresh prepared onions (chopped and left on the counter for couple of days). Other interesting characteristics of onions include: antibacterial and cleansing properties; improving circulation; improves bone density with daily intake; decreases redness and swelling and inflammation (rubbing half an onion on an insect bite or on a burn has proven to be soothing, easing the pain and inflammation), and many more.

Onions are also known to be of great help in the hair growth department. Proceed by massaging the juice of a medium onion (extracted by simply squeezing the onion) into your scalp into the hair roots and leave for 30 minutes then proceed with your regular shampoo. It is the sulfur found in the onion that will contribute to regenerating the hair follicles on the scalp and stimulate hair regrowth, reducing hair baldness and thinning. Some will go to say that onion sulfur has been proven to have better hair-restoring properties than sulfur extracted from the soil in mines.

Did you know that an apple, a potato and an onion would all taste the same if you eat them with your nose plugged?

You can use an onion to clean your BBQ grill. Before proceeding with the onion, start by turning on your BBQ on maximum heat to burn off all leftover grit and grime on the grill. Once you have reached a high temperature, turn off your BBQ and let it cool down a little bit. Once the grill has cooled for proper handling but is still warm, rub the grill with half an onion in order to loosen and residues left on the metal.

Magical healing: the disease vacuum

There is an urban legend dating back from the 1919 flu which killed 40 million. It is said that a family survived the flu by putting onions throughout their house for them to absorb the disease. A doctor at the time, curious of what the family might have been doing to not succumb to the infection, he went to visit them.  After learning about the family’s onion prevention, the doctor asked to take away with him one of the onions for further research. He put a piece of it under a microscope and found in it the flu virus.  For those of you who have seen the movie ‘The Green Mile’ with Tom Hanks, think of an onion as the John Coffey character!  For your home made flu cure: cut both ends of an onion, put a fork on one of the ends and place the onion into an empty jar.  Place the jar besides your bed/the patient’s before going to bed and leave it overnight. Throughout the night the onion is said to absorb the bacteria around it, resulting in the morning with a black onion and someone starting to feel much better. Now, some articles will defend the non-scientific-sense of the onion being a ‘disease magnet’ but for the sake of potentially feeling better and being able to properly sleep at night and breath through both nostrils, I’d say it’s worth a shot!

Lastly, sliced up onion mix in with some water would act as a nice substitute to commercial metal polisher. The result may take a little more time to shine through but it would be as effective. Crushed onion mixed with water are said to work magic on acne. Simply apply the mixture to your face as a mask and then rinse off… please remember to rinse it off… or you could also simply let the tears you will be shedding wash it away slowly! Kidding!

You can also make tea with the onion peel. I have yet to try it but it is said to be a good remedy to help lower hypertension, tone your cardiac activity, boost your immune system, reduce muscle spasms and also has anti-septic, expectorating, laxative, diuretic and anti-cancerous characteristics.

I could go on for days as to what you can do with onions and onions peels, literally! I spared you to include all the information I found but next time you have a health issue, take a minute to google if an onion could be of any help!

Thanks Steph for this very useful article!!

xox- Alex











  • http://www.shemakesandbakes.com/ Emily @ She Makes and Bakes

    Wow! Great article. To avoid tearing up, as soon as I cut an onion in half, I run the cut ends under cold water. Works for me and no silly goggles!

  • http://iadorefood.com/ Alex – I Adore Food!

    Great tip Em, thanks :)

  • G

    For no tears onions don’t chop, mince, etc. precision cut with a good knife. when you cry its because you are mashing the onion which creates an enzyme for a defense mechanism, similar to if something in the wild were to try to bite the bulb the plant produces the enzyme to make them think twice. sharp knives and clean cuts are a great way to avoid tears.
    The onion in a window is kind of bunk, but onions are full of sulphur which is great when you are sick, its an anti-microbial. make some onion soup and see how fast you get better. to make no tear onion soup just cut the onion in 1/2 along a meridian and remove the skin. then slice in 1/4 inch slices. you are all ready to caramelize them. yay.

  • lilia delgado

    I can testified to the use of onions on mosquito bites. Mi husband is allergic to them and one time on a beach in Mexico he got bitten really badly and we did not know of a hospital or clinic near by. Because we were camping we had onions with us. I made an onion paste and put it all over the bites ( he was already crying and could no breathe easily ). About 1/2 hr. later he was sleeping, and in the morning there was no signs of the bites at all. This I learn it from my grandmother. I also had used onion in bees bites.

  • http://iadorefood.com/ Alex – I Adore Food!

    Great to know :) thank you!

  • Michelle

    This is great! Thanks for sharing. I became more curious about onions after one cured my ear infection. I haven’t had one of those since I was a kid. It hurts like hell, that part I forgot. It’s not bacterial, so antibiotics won’t help, and I’d rather not take that. I found online – cook a white or yellow opinion at 350f for 15 min or until you can smell the onion but it’s not brown. Let cool, until it’s comfortable temperature on your palm. Put on ear/s and wrap a 100% cotton or wool towel or scarf around your head to keep in place. Can’t use another fabric. Wait 10-15 minutes. I did this, went to sleep, and my earache was gone in the morning. Pretty cool