Behold the onion – a bountiful bulb of delicious, versatile flavor.
It may not be the prettiest veggie in the garden, but this kitchen staple has layers and layers of history, culture and culinary significance.
Peeling Back the Layers of Time
The consumption of onions goes back more than 5,000 years. Many experts believe that they originated in Asia, around Pakistan and Iran.
This humble crop was a hit with early civilizations for a plethora of reasons – they were easy to grow, easy to store and transport, lasted longer than many other crops, and they were believed to have medicinal qualities.
More Than Just Food
For thousands of years, onions have had a role in society that’s bigger than just a measly foodstuff.
In early Egypt, onions were believed to represent eternal life.
One belief was that if the dead were laid to rest with onions, their pungent smell would allow them to breathe again.
Because of that, they were frequently used in burial rituals and religious ceremonies.
King Ramses IV, who died in 1160 B.C., for example, was entombed with onions in his eye sockets.
Romans believed that onions could cure a myriad of ailments, from dog bites to poor vision to insomnia – you name it.
By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, these bulbous beauties were one of the most popular vegetables in Europe, along with cabbage and beans.
Considered a valuable crop, the Pilgrims carried them on the Mayflower.
Upon arriving in America, they learned that Native Americans had beat them to the trend – using wild onions as food, medicine, dye, and even toys.
Onions are Still Pretty Stinkin’ Popular
In the culinary world of today, they still play a huge role. They’re Earth’s sixth most popular crop.
They’re a base ingredient in cuisines from countries all around the globe.
The French, for example, use onions, carrots and celery, a combination called “mirepoix”, as a base for many soups and other dishes.
Italy has the popular “Battuto”, an onion, garlic and parsley mixture.
No matter where you go, chances are onions are on the menu whether your know it or not offering up all the perks of their beautiful flavor and health benefits.
Give onions a flavorful try in these recipes: