While they may get mixed reviews in terms of taste, we are all familiar with onions. They have lots of layers and make you cry when you cut them up, but there is so much more to them than meets the eye. Here are some surprising thing you probably didn’t know about onions.
Onions played a role in the Olympics
In the first century, the Greek physician Dioscorides was a firm believer in the diverse array of medicinal uses of onions. Before competitions, Greek athletes in the Olympic Games energized themselves by eating pounds of onions and drinking pure onion juice. You can imagine that the smell of their breath alone would have been enough to defeat their rivals! Also, before entering the pit of the Coliseum, contenders rubbed their bodies with onion juice in the belief that the essence of the onion provided energy, courage and strength.
Onions are one of the earliest cultivated crops
Onions are native to Central Asia and have been cultivated for more than 5 000 years. However, our ancestors discovered and began eating wild onions long before that. Wild harvesting was what sustained primitive man in the early days, and the onion was highly prized in the diet as wild onion could be eaten raw, dried or cooked. They could also be stored to eat when food was scarce.
It’s not the onion itself that makes us cry
An onion’s pungency results from the level of sulfur-rich volatile oils that the onion contains. During peeling or slicing, this volatile oil is released. This oil that is released is what causes our eyes to water and burn when chopping onions.
Pharaohs were buried with onions
In ancient Egypt, onions were considered sacred, an embodiment of eternity and an object of worship. They were even buried with the pharaohs, who believed that because onions would prevent thirst, they were necessary on their journey to the afterworld. Artwork of onions was also found on the walls of the tombs of the Egyptian royalty.
The ancient Roman empire held onions in an even higher regard, claiming that their excellent medicinal properties could cure night blindness, insomnia, toothaches and a number of other diseases. The Romans also relied on onions to treat dog bites and to help heal mouth sores.
Onions are not just a strange vegetable that can lead to the dreaded onion breath! They are delicious and add lots of flavour to dishes. Visit one of our stores and taste for yourself.