Several months ago the NY Times ran an article looking at the actual nutritional value of current day vegetation as compared to generations, let alone millennia, prior. It was not surprising that the results were sobering. But it was surprising just how much nutritional value has been lost in the quest to grow easier, more productive crops. Onions stood out as a crop that had changed little over time. The whole Alliums’ family not only stayed genetically true but also ranked across the board as good food, even Fox news ran a clip in 2012 highlighting the health virtues of eating onions every day. Evidence shows that as far back as the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC) people were using onions in their meals. Onions contain valued phenolics and flavonoids that do all the anti-things we want: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol and antioxidant. Red wine and green teas are playing catch up in the virtues department. Plus onions make every dish yummier!
In recent years my sweetie, a gardening master, has dedicated more space to onion crops. This past weekend I took on the task of harvesting shopping bag after shopping bag of yellow, red and white onions to store for the winter months. (The green onions are grown for more immediate eating in the spring.) My chore load around our urban homestead is pretty low and often renegotiated downward. So when there is a task that I can conquer completely, I am mighty pleased. Our onion plot is actually a block away in a community garden where Mike is also growing this year’s carrots, tomatoes and basil. As the onions complete their growing cycle, the space is needed for the purple winter cabbage.
Being modestly one armed right now as the result of a fall last week I was limited to transporting one load of onions at a time. They start out taking up a lot of space because they are messy with their browned tops, multiple outer layers littering with every touch and roots holding on to what dirt they can. But as I chopped off the tops, trimmed their roots and flaked off excessive skin and dirt, the onion globes emerged glowing like gems. Mike and I were feeling mighty impressed with our wealth as they cured first in the sun and then in the shade as they make their way to storage in the dark, cool basement.
Here are a few acquired eating tips. The more you include outer layers of the onion in your cooking, the better – they host the densest quantity of good stuff. If you are using green stalks, chop as much of the length into your dish as possible – the length only increases in nutritional value. Ideally, cut your onions 30 minutes prior to using them, which gives them full time to release their bounty. While adding your onions galore, don’t share the fresh or cooked dishes with pets. Neither mushrooms nor onions are supposed to be good for our four legged friends. And remember that onion blossoms not only cook up well, they can be added to any vase to make an even lovelier bouquet.