Ever walked in on someone crying in the kitchen? More often than not, you can bet that person is cutting onions.
Onions are a variety of plants whose bulbs grow underground. Because onion plants only exhibit a single, above ground shoot, many confuse onions with tubers, such as potatoes. However, they are closer in species to garlic.
Red onions are a cultivated variety with purple-red skin and white flesh. This genus gets their color from natural compounds called “cyanidins,” which are the same things that make grapes, cherries, and berries red.
This variety of onion tends to have a mild to sweet flavor. Because of their appealing taste, red onions are eaten a number of ways, often raw or grilled. They are also added to other foods to intensify flavor, or simply to increase color. Interestingly, most varieties of red onion tend to lose their color when cooked, yet keep the intense purple-red when served raw.
Red onions are said to have a variety of interesting health benefits, which explains why they are frequently used in many recipes. Increasing your intake of red onions decreases your blood-sugar glucose levels, lowers your chances of colon cancer and other related diseases, and benefits overall bone health. Furthermore, nutrients in the vegetables such as vitamin B6 and chromium lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the throat, bones, and blood vessels. Because of these benefits, some cite red onions as crucial in treatment of a variety of diseases, such as asthma, osteoporosis, and many more.
These factors may contribute to this vegetable’s popularity in various cultures. Red onions make up about 8% of the U.S. onion crop, which totals out to about 480 million pounds of red onions. Notably, Libya has the highest per capita onion consumption rate, with each person eating an average of 67 pounds of onions per year.
Interested in the red onion? Organic red onions from the Massachusetts area will be featured this week at your Chef’s Table!
Why do onions make us cry?
When you cut an onion, the action releases amino acids that form sulfenic acids. The sulfenic acids then mix with other enzymes, making a sulfur compound. This compound reacts with the water in your tears, forming sulfuric acid that burns and makes you cry.
Ways to keep yourself from crying include refrigerating the onion before cutting it, slowing the chemical reactions within the onion, or cutting the onion under running water, which forces the sulfur compound down the drain. You can also opt to run a fan in an attempt to trap the sulfur compound, or wear onion goggles, which you can find here or pretty much anywhere else online.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/MattJP