Onion is the main flavouring ingredient of many cuisines, particularly those from the Mediterranean basin.
The oldest written recipes from approximately 1700 B C originating in Mesopotamia call for lamb, onion, garlic, and leeks.
To this day, onions are indispensable vegetable and corner stone of sops, stews, stir-fries, pizza, salads or sauce dressings, roasted vegetables just to name a few,
Onion, garlic, leeks are part of the allium family that add extra flavour, richness, complexity and an almost narcotic taste dimension if judiciously used.
They can be stored in a dry, well-ventilated, dark place, and used as needed.
There are several varieties, ranging from sharp to mild.
Large Spanish onions are mild, can be slices and used in hamburger buns.
Wala Wala or Vidalia taste especially mild that you can place slices on buttered rye bread for an unusual snack. A fine glass of lager beer will elevate the experience to heavenly heights.
Then there is the cooking onion, which are yellow, white or red. Young bunched onions are called scallions, and taste delicious in beef stir-fries, or when grilled or slices and mixed in salads.
Chives also belong to the allium family and enhance salads and sauces.
The uneven shaped shallots are the preferred flavouring agent of French chefs. They taste somewhere between mild garlic and strong onion, and are delicious in sautéed vegetables, sauces, and dressings.
Archaeologists determined that humans started eating wild onions 50 centuries ago and 40 centuries ago the Babylonian king Hamurabi codified the law providing his poorest subjects with a monthly ration of bread and onions.
Ancient Egyptians worshipped onion, and ascribed powers of eternity if consumed in large quantities.
Pictures of onions are dominant in Egyptian tomb paintings, and are often fund in cavities of mummies.
In Egypt of antiquity, labourers subsisted on bread and raw onions. Herodotus, the Greek historian, reports that labourers who were fed bread and onions constructed the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
In fact, both were used interchangeably as currency, the talent of the country at the time.
Alexander the Great, a Macedonian general, conquered many lands between Greece and India with side excursions to Syria and Egypt. Reportedly, he fed his soldiers mainly bread and onion.
We do not know what else he confiscated from hapless farmers on their way.
Romans ascribed medicinal properties to onions and Pliny the Elder lists 23 medical properties, from curing vision problems, insomnia, all the way to dog bites.
Emperor Nero thought leeks to be good the strengthen voice chords and ate inordinate amount of it prompting Romans to call him porrophagus (the leek eater).
Onions are fat free; provide dietary fibre, vitamins C ad B6, and potassium.
They are rich in antioxidants quercetin and selenium.
Onions contain sulphur-based chemicals that turn, when the vegetable is chopped. to gases. They cause eyes to burn and water.
(Leaving the stem on will help reduce fumes emanating).
To date, no remedy exists to prevent this, except using very sharp knives to reduce gas development.
Cutting onion under running cold water is not a good idea, nor is holding it under hot water before chopping, as the flavour diminishes, but you can try goggles is you wish! They work but is it worth the effort?