The Ever-Popular Onion

By Awake! writer in Mexico

Would a kitchen be complete without the common onion? This multipurpose vegetable can be used for almost anything​—soups, salads, main dishes, medicinal preparations. It can even make us cry a little.

A relative of beautiful flowering plants​—such as the golden onion, the bride’s onion, and the ornamental garlic—​the common onion is a producer of beautiful flowers itself. Yet, what is present in practically every kitchen of the world is the bulb, basically an underground bud with swollen leaf sheaths.

This vegetable is one of the oldest crops cultivated by man. How widespread its use was can be traced through the Bible record, which shows that by about the year 1513 B.C.E., the people of Israel longed for the onions they had eaten while in Egyptian servitude.​—Numbers 11:5.

But what has given the onion’s flavor such prestige in palates so diverse? It is surely the sulfur compounds, which give it a particular aroma and pungency. And its sulfenic acid forms the substance that causes the legendary tears.

Much More Than a Delicacy

Onions are an asset to the world’s health. They contain nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorous, and ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. In particular, though, onions have been historically appreciated for their medicinal properties. Even now they are used to fight a number of conditions, including colds, laryngitis, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. Also attributed to the onion are antiseptic, anticholesterol, anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, and anticancer effects.

Onions come in different colors​—white, yellow, brown, green, red, and purple. You can have them fresh, cooked, canned, pickled, dehydrated, powdered, in flakes, or in cubes. Is not the onion a wonderful vegetable​—even if it does make you shed a few tears?