Onion - Natural Benefits and Curative Properties
Botanical Name :: Allium cepa
Indian Name :: Piyaz
The onion, a pungent edible of the lily family, is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. It is considered a food of exceptional value for flavoring and seasoning. The onion is a biennial herb, usually grown as an annual. All its. parts produce a strong onion odour when crushed. It has superficial root system, a very short flattened stem at the base of the plant, which increases in diameter as growth continues. Leaves are long, linear and hollow. A bulb is formed by thickening of the leaf bases when the plant reaches a certain stage of growth. The fruit is a globular capsule
Origin and Distribution
Onion is believed to have originated in Central Asia, possibly in the Iran-Pakistan region. It has been cultivated since ancient times in the Middle East and India. It 'was a popular food in ancient Egypt, where it is depicted on tombs as early as 3200 BC and has been found in mummies.
The Sanskrit equivalent for onion is palandu which has been mentioned in the Garuda Purana. The great Indian sages, Maharishi Atreya and Lord Dhanwantri have described the use of onions in details. It is referred to in the Bible, when the Israelites complained of their hardships while being led by Moses from Egypt to the land of Canaan about 1500 BC remembering the onions that they ate in Egypt.
Onion is frequently referred to in the literature from Hippocrates, 430 BC down to the present time. It is on record that the Jews loved onions so much that they named a city after it Onion. This city was built in 173 BC near the Gulf of Suez. The man who built it was called Onions. The city existed for 343 years.
Onion is now cultivated in most parts of the world, including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Philippines, China, Egypt, West and East Africa, tropical South and Central America arid the Caribbean.
Food Value of Onion
Onion which derived its name from the Latin Onia and French Oignan, has been described by some one as the dynamite of natural foods. Compared with other fresh vegetables, it is relatively high in food value, moderate in protein content and is rich in calcium and riboflavin. There is considerable variation in composition between different varieties and it also varies with the stage of maturity and the length of storage.
The odour in onion is due to organic sulphur compounds, and is produced only when the tissues are cut or injured, by enzyme action on a water soluble amino acid. Heating, freezing and drying prevent the enzyme action. That is why cooking produces a different odour, flavor and pungency. The pungent flavor of onion is much appreciated by many people in many countries. The strong odour lingers for a considerable time after consumption. It is said lobe due to small particles retained in the mouth which cannot always be removed by brushing.
The onion has a good keeping quality. The dried cured bulbs may be kept for several months without deterioration and can stand rough handling. Good storage life is usually associated with high pungency.
Natural Benefits and Curative Properties of Onion
Onion is highly valued for its therapeutic properties. It has been used as a food remedy from time immemorial The physicians of ancient Egypt prescribed onions in various diseases. Dioscorides in the first century AD attributed many herbal remedies to them. They are stimulant, diuretic, expectorant and rubefacient
The white onion is preferable to the red and yellow varieties. Onions should be taken with meals preferably raw as fried or cooked onions are comparatively difficult to digest. For therapeutic purposes, it is advisable to use onion juice instead of the whole onion as it is an all round medicine. Onion being stimulating and irritating food, its consumption in excess should be avoided.
Several parts of the plant have a place in the traditional medicines. The seeds of onion increase semen and relieve dental worms and urinary diseases. The stalks of onion are a source of Vitamin A, thiamin and ascorbic acid They are used in both tender and mature stages.
Uses of Onion
The onion can be used in innumerable ways. The immature and mature bulbs are eaten raw or they may be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They are used in soups and sauces and for seasoning many foods. They may also be fried. Coated with gram flour and fried, the onion bhajiya makes an excellent snack. Small white leaf at the base before the bulb are eaten raw in salads. These immature plants are known as green, bunching or spring onions. Onion oil, produced by steam distillation, is used to a limited extent for flavoring foods.There has been an increasing demand, in recent years, for dehydrated onion products. The onions are sliced and dried. They are used for flavoring food and in canned meat products, sausages, canned and dried soups and, ketchups. Dried onion flakes can be reconstituted by cooking in water, and are used in salads and other foods. Chopped and dried green onion tops may be used as a substitute for chives a kind culinary herb for culinary purposes.
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