The Mighty Onion

Onions are such a common ingredient in many types of cooking they are sometimes regarded as an unimportant vegetable. But the onion gives flavour, health and nutrition and is more than “just a vegetable”.

Apparently onions are edible alliums. And allium is the Latin for garlic. The allium genus of plants includes onions, shallots, garlic, chives and leeks. It is pretty obvious that I got the genus and Latin stuff off the internet – I am no gardener or Latin student.

Lots of curries have onions (and garlic) in them and the mighty onion gives taste and body to a curry.

But it isn’t just curries that love the onion. French cooking uses a lot of onions, especially the mouth-watering French onion soup. Salads often have raw onion in them, especially the red onion. Chinese cooking loves the onion.

Onions are grown all over the world and have been for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians and Romans loved them. According to some, the onion was introduced to the New World by Christopher Columbus. So he gave onions and took chillies. Fair trade?

Although onions are good to eat, they sometimes make your eyes water. This happens because some onions give off a small amount of sulphur gas which reacts with water in your eyes to form a very mild sulphuric acid. Even I know that having acid in your eyes is a bad thing. The eyes sting with the acid and produce tears that dilute the acid and clean out the eyes. If you are particularly sensitive to onions, you can cut them under water to prevent the sulphur gas from getting into the air. The chance of acid being produced disappears once the cooking of the onion begins.

As well as tasting good, onions are good for you as they contain anti-cancer, anti-cholesterol, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that are widely used in treating heart disease, diabetes and even the common cold.

Whenever I’m out food shopping, I always check out the onions if I see any. In fact, onions are about the only vegetable that I buy from a supermarket. But if I see good onions, I have to get them as the onions in the next shop might not be as good.

As you can guess, I love onions and am very partial to Do Piaza (dopiaza) curries. Yummy.