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SCINQ BASICS: Nothing says ‘I Love You’ like an onion.


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Quote: Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time. – Erma Bombeck

Descended from: Allium vavilovii.

Domestication date: ca. 3000 BC

Properties: The chemical in onions that causes tear production is called syn-propanethial-S-oxide. This compound is released when the cells of an onion are damaged, for example, by cutting. Once released, it reacts with the water in your eyes to form sulfuric acid, which stimulates the sensory nerves in your eyes and triggers the production of tears. The tear-producing response is a defense mechanism designed to remove irritants from your eyes, but it can be quite unpleasant and cause eye discomfort, especially if you are cutting a large number of onions. To minimize tearing while cutting onions, some people recommend refrigerating the onions beforehand, using a sharp knife, or cutting under running water.


Health benefits: Onions are a nutritious vegetable that provide many health benefits. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Antioxidant properties: Onions are rich in antioxidants, such as quercetin and anthocyanins, which can help protect against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Onions contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the risk of certain inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease and certain types of cancer.
  • Improved cardiovascular health: The high fiber, low calorie content, and beneficial compounds in onions may help improve heart health by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the risk of blood clots.
  • Boosted immune system: Onions contain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, that are essential for a healthy immune system.
  • Potential anti-cancer effects: Some studies have shown that compounds in onions may have anti-cancer properties, especially in relation to certain types of cancers, such as colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

It’s important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the health benefits of onions and how they may impact specific health conditions. Additionally, consuming onions in moderation, as part of a healthy and balanced diet, is recommended.

Dishes of Note: French Onion Soup; Onion Rings; Liver and Onions; Pickled Onions; Blooming Onion; Sausage with Onions and Peppers.

History: The onion (Allium cepa) is a vegetable that has been cultivated for thousands of years and is believed to have originated in Central Asia. It was one of the earliest cultivated plants and was widely used by ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The onion was introduced to the New World by Spanish and French explorers and has since become a staple ingredient in cuisines all over the world. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the cultivation of onions became a major industry in many countries, particularly in Europe and the United States. Today, onions are grown in over 160 countries and are one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the world.

The domestic onion is believed to have descended from the wild Allium vavilovii, a species native to Central Asia. Over thousands of years of cultivation, the wild onion gradually evolved into the domestic onion that is widely cultivated and consumed today. Through selective breeding, farmers and gardeners were able to produce onions with larger bulbs, sweeter flavor, and improved storage capabilities. This process of artificial selection has resulted in the wide variety of onion cultivars that are available today.

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