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Top-set onions, tree onions, or walking onions are various names used to
describe a family of very hardy perennial, multiplying, top setting onions.
They produce table ready green onions (scallions) from top or bottom sets.
They produce small bulblets on the end of the stalks in the second year of
the plant's growth. Some varieties produce a second clump of top-sets out of
the first cluster of sets. This type is often referred to as a tree onion
because of these branching characteristics. These could possibly be used in
flower arrangements. As the weight of the bulbs increases the plant stalks
fall to the ground, which may be as much as two feet from the parent plant.
The bulbs waste no time in putting down roots. This is why these varieties
are sometimes referred to as a walking onion. If you do not want the plant
to spread throughout your garden, the top-sets should be harvested. The
flavor of these top-sets is somewhat spicy. They are delicious pickled. In
addition to producing top-sets, the parent plant divides at the base
producing an abundant supply of green scallions for salads, gazpacho and
other soups or casseroles. When harvesting, always be sure to leave at least
one onion in the ground so the plant will continue to multiply and keep you
supplied with onions for a lifetime.
History of the Onion
Onion was highly respected in the Ancient Egyptian civilization. Infact, the
well-known “Sham EL Neseem” festival, where fish and onions are eaten is the
celebration of the coming spring to the Egyptians.This custom of eating very
highly salted (rotten) fish, with massive quantities of onion and spring
onions certainly has carried on to our present day by the Egyptians.The
botanical name for onion is Allium Cepa. Its common name is garden onion.
Its arabic name is Basal. It is a plant in which we wonder where to place
it; with spices or with vegetables.
For over 4000 years, Onions have been used for eating and for medical
purposes. It was cultviated by the Egyptians around 3200 BC but must have
been domesticated earlier, and is thought to have been derived from a wild
species found in the mountains of Central Asia. Egyptians numbered over
8000 onion-alleviated ailments. They were fed together with garlic to
workers building pyramids and were found in the tomb of King Tut.
The esteemed Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed Onions as a diuretic,
wound healer and pneumonia fighter.
Onions are noted in the Bible as one of the foods most longed for by the
Israelites after leaving Egypt for the Promised Land.
The HOLY QURAN narrates the story of the Israelites longing for Onions and
asking Moses to pray to GOD asking for onions and other plants. Moses told
them to “go down to Egypt”, where they can find all what they had longed
for, inspite they had much better food from God.
Onions have been enjoyed by most cultures throughout history. Onions were
commonly grown in the Middle Ages throughout Europe. Christopher Columbus
brought Onions with him to the Americas. Their popularity quickly spread
among native American cultures.
During World War II, Russian soldiers applied Onions to battle wounds as an
antiseptic. And throughout the Ages, there have been countless folk remedies
that have ascribed their curative powers to Onions, such as putting a sliced
Onion under your pillow to fight off insomnia.
The parts used are the bulb. The familiar and popular onion is a bulb of
Allium cepa, a low growing plant. Botanists classify it in either the lily
family or the amaryllis family. Onions and shallots are closely related to
leeks, chives, garlic and Chinese chives. All these belong to the genus
Allium and have the characteristic onion smell, caused by alkyl sulphides.
Fresh onions are pungent and have a sharp bite. Cooked onions lose this heat
and develop a rich sweetness. This sweet taste is mostly appreciated by
barbecuing onions on charcoal. They generally have a papery outer skin over
a fleshy, layered core.
There are different types of onion (Allium cepa). Bulb onions Multiplier
onions Shallot (most of the types in the markets are Allium cepa) Potato
onion Tree onions or Egyptian onions.
Tree onions, also commonly called top onions or Egyptian onions, are a
strong-growing onion with a bunch of bulblets where a normal onion would
have flowers. In some varieties these bulblets will sprout and grow while
still on the original stalk, which may bend down under the weight of the new
growth, giving rise to the name, walking onion.
The constituents of onion contain only traces (0.01%) of essential oil,
which mostly consists of sulfur compounds. Onions contain two substances
that give them most of it beneficial properties: sulfur and quercetin - both
being strong antioxidants. They each have been shown to help neutralize the
free radicals in the body, and protect the membranes of the body's cells
from damage. Quercetin is also found in tea, but in much lower quantities.
Interestingly, white Onions contain very little quercetin, so it's better to
use the yellow and red varieties. One small onion cooked without salt
contains .8 grams protein and 1.3 grams of fiber. It also contains the
minerals Potassium , Phosphorus, Calcium ,Magnesium, Sodium and
Also contains small amounts of iron, manganese, copper and zinc.
Onions have a very peculiar phenomenon, it makes you cry while cutting it.
This is caused by breaking the onion cells while slicing. Onion cells have
two sections, one with enzymes called allinases, the other with sulfides .
The enzymes break down the sulfides and generate sulfenic acids. Sulfenic
acid is unstable and decomposes into a volatile gas called
syn-ropanethial-S-oxide. The gas then dissipates through the air and
eventually reaches the eye, where it will react with the water to form a
mild solution of sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid irritates the nerve
endings in the eyes, making them sting. The tear glands then produce tears
in response to this irritation, to dilute and flush out the irritant.
Different species of onions will release different amounts of sulfenic
acids, thus some will cause more tear formation and irritation than others.
The uses of onions are primarily in cooking, as it is the most abundant
ingredient in most dishes. However, there are some medicinal uses of onion.
Onion is used as a diuretic, expectorant and antiseptic. Onions are highly
recommended for people trying to prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and
infections. They appear to be at least somewhat effective against colds,
heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases and contain antiinflammatory,
anticholesterol, and anticancer components.
Onions contain many active compounds that appear to inhibit the growth of
cancerous cells, help combat heart disease, inhibit strokes, lower blood
pressure & cholesterol, and stimulate the immune system. Alliums are also
antibacterial and anti-fungal, so they can relieve stomach upset & other
gastrointestinal disorders. As with Garlic, Onions help prevent thrombosis
and reduce hypertension, according to the American Heart Association. The
natural constituents of yellow or white Onions can raise HDL cholesterol
Onions taste great in most of our dishes.it is used in every thing except
for sweets and desserts. Onions can be used chopped, kippled or minced.
Pastes prepared by grinding onions together with a variety of spices are
known in quite many countries. Since raw onions easily turn bitter, such
pastes must be prepared fresh and used without much delay; alternatively,
they can be preserved by adding some acid (e.g., vinegar or lemon juice).
By frying, onion changes its taste and turns more sweet and aromatic; the
flavour develops best after long frying in comparatively cool fat. Fried
onion rings are popular in Central Europe as a decoration. In India, onion
is the base of most sauces and gravies.
Onions may also be dried, in which case they again change their flavour and
turn more garlic-like. Onion powder is a rather popular spice in the South
of the US and in México,
Dried Onion can be added straight to liquids, but should be rehydrated
before being added to drier dishes such as casseroles and stirfries.
Rehydrating them also increases potency. Onions make the perfect foundation
for meats, poultry, soups, salads, and stews. Dried Onions release flavor
more rapidly than freshly chopped Onions when added to a recipe.
Shallots stem from a closely related plant, Allium ascalonicum. They are
smaller and grow in clusters with up to five bulbs; their taste is somewhat
finer and less pungent. Shallots are most popular in Northern France,
however, the french donot fry shallots.