Sweet Onions: The Essential Ingredient

We at Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens are thrilled to have hosted two special events these past few weeks. On June 10th the National Wildlife Federation’s Earth Tomorrow Summer Institute for high school students visited for a workshop. Then on June 14th, the National Resource Conservation Service sponsored a farm tour and workshop hosted at both Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens and the Oakleaf Mennonite Farm. Around 140 participants showed up and learned about soil conservation, cover cropping, and mushrooms among a variety of other topics. It has been exciting to have so many interested folks visiting us.

“Banish (the onion) from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair.”

~Elizabeth Robbins Pennell (American columnist)

Origin of the Onion: Though no conclusion has been drawn, research on the origin of the onion leads to either Central Asia or modern-day Iran and West Pakistan. Onions grew wild in many parts of the world, so cultivation may very well have occurred simultaneously in different regions. Onions can be traced to Chinese gardens over 5000 years ago, are referenced in some of the oldest Vedic writings in India, traced to Egypt in 3500 B.C., and to ancient Sumer in 2500 B.C.

In ancient Egypt onions symbolized eternity – as represented by their circle within a circle structure. They were buried with Pharoahs and King Ramses IV (died 1160 B.C.) was buried with onions in his eye sockets.

Fast forward in time about 2800 years and Pilgrims brought onions along with them on the Mayflower. Although they found other strains of wild onions already growing in the new world and being used by the Native American Indians in a variety of ways, the Pilgrims cultivated their Eurasian bulb.

Georgia Onion Facts: For Georgia, onions are very important, particularly as a result of Moses Coleman who was the first to grow the popular Vidalia onion (noted for it’s sweet rather than hot taste) in 1931. The Vidalia onion is designated as the state’s vegetable and is popular around the world.

Health: Onions are high in vitamin C and protein and are a good source of dietary fiber. They also contain folic acid, calcium, iron and quercetin (a flavonoid). Onions contain compounds called alliums, which help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Along with chard (featured last week), onions are also included among the most alkaline vegetables and may even prevent gastric ulcers.

For more fun information on onions, check out the National Onions Association website at onions-usa.org.

 This week’s CSA share will include our delicious sweet onions and I cannot think of any recipe that does the onion more justice than simply Carmelized Onions. You can use these as a garnish to just about anything.

Carmelized Onions

 3 pounds yellow onions (6 to 9 medium onions)

Cooking spray, as needed

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

Salt and pepper, to taste

Halve and slice onions. Coat 12-inch skillet with cooking spray. Over medium heat, cook onions in oil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until soft and golden. Stir in thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Serve warm or cover and chill for up to 5 days. Makes 12 servings. (recipe and photo found at http://onions-usa.org/recipes/view/118/Caramelized-Onions)

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