History of Onions and Culinary Uses

White Onion
The Onion "Allium Cepa", in the same family as garlic, is one of the oldest edible plants dating back 3500 years. Although its origin is not so clear, it probably originated in the homeland of ancient Persia, in parts of Western Asia, and the Mediterranean. It was one of the favorite foods by the Egyptians who worshipped it as a divinity and, along with garlic, constituted the only source of livelihood for slaves engaged in the construction of the pyramids. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, it was used to treat coughs, colds and sore throats and together with a little salt was a habitual breakfast as well as being used in countless dishes. In the middle ages, onions were used as protection against diseases.

Red Onion (Tropea)

Today the onion is grown throughout the world and is one of the most widely used aromatics in cuisines around the world. The Onion is a product of very ancient gardens. It is an herbaceous plant that produces its bulbs annually. The land on which it grows is generally a fertile soil that does not fear different climates. The part we eat is the "bulb", which can be eaten both raw and cooked. The onion has a particular flavor that gives dishes a pleasant taste and is often used as a "base" for the preparation of broth, soups, casseroles, risottos, meats, tasty sauces, stuffed onions, in salads and frittata.


There are many varieties of onions that differ in the shape of the bulb, color of "robes" (skin), size and flavor. Generally, the red onion has a greater amount of aromatic substances than white, though nutritionally, there are no special differences. When the onion is fresh, it gives off a strong odor, caused by allyl isocyanate, which generally has irritating effects on the eyes and mucous membranes. When the onion is cooked, the substance disappears and the onion becomes remarkably sweeter in taste.

Nutritional properties
The onion has high water content, about 85%, 10% carbohydrates, 2% protein and fat content almost non-existent. Its vitamin content is low (B vitamins, vitamin PP and C).

How to recognize an onion is really fresh?
It is important that it is compact, rather firm and without dents, stains, or mold

Tip to avoid watering eyes
Peel onions under cold water. Use a very sharp knife when cutting an onion, “the sharper the knife, the less you cry”?

How to Store Onions
Onions can last for several weeks (if not months) without compromising their taste or nutritional value. Onions must be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place.

Once the onion is cut, wrap left over portion in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. It will keep for a few days.

Onions can be chopped and frozen in the freezer for a few months in freezer bags.  They will not be as crunchy, however cooked are still very tasty.   


White onions
Suitable for cooking, smells bitterly pungent somewhat irritating to the eyes and nose. Has more papery skin.  Can be cooked just like yellow onions, delicious minced and added to raw salsas or chutneys.

Red onions
Can be cooked or appropriate to eat raw. Has sweet and delicate taste.  This fleshy red Tropea is also excellent stuffed. Can be used in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes somewhat washed out during cooking. Can be used cooked in soups, pasta dishes, meats and seafood.

Golden onions
Considered an all-purpose onion, most often used. Has a nice balance of sweet and astringency flavor. They become sweeter the longer they cook. Are to be consumed cooked. Strong and pungent. Can be cut into rings, floured and fried.  Is a great side dish to meat dishes.  Spanish onions are a kind of yellow onion which are sweeter and more delicate in flavor when cooked.

Sweet Onions
Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. Really do taste sweet. Thinly sliced they can be served in salads or on top of sandwiches. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be store in the refrigerator.

Spring Onions
The most delicate, suitable for raw, pungent. Use the green part, fine chopped, for garnish. White part can be used raw in salads, and salsas.  Cooked can be used in stir fried foods or Mexican foods.

Are fleshy but also tender and crunchy. More delicate aroma and flavor than the onion. Clean them well. Tastier steamed and cut into slices. Great in soups or baked.  

Are the sweetest, delicate, midway between garlic and onion, can be used as substitute to both. Is used in many white sauces, such as béarnaise sauce, and in salad dressings. Refrigeration for shallots is not recommended, as cold temperatures tend to encourage sprouting.


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