Onions (Allium cepa L.), being the most extensively cultivated species of the Allium genus, are a root crop that nearly everyone has heard about, seen, or eaten. However, don’t let their perceived commonness lull you into thinking they’re uninteresting. Onions are quite a fascinating garden vegetable that has some remarkable characteristics.
ONIONS OF OLDEN TIMES
It’s thought that for well over 7,000 years the onion has been consumed or used medicinally by humans. While the first onions used were from wild sources, the cultivation of onions is thought to have started around 5,000 years ago. There’s debate on where the onion originated, some believing it first came from central Asia, while others believe it was from Iran and West Pakistan. Although the origin of the onion is debatable, the onion is known to have been used by many ancient cultures such as the Sumerians, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These cultures believed the onion had magical qualities that could be used in the afterlife, as well as healing properties to be used to treat ailments such as digestive issues, sleeplessness, poor vision, general aches and pains, and to enhance and fortify their overall health.
As the middle ages rolled around, Europeans, both rich and poor, were consuming large amounts of these vegetables. They too used them for medicinal reasons, such as to soothe and cure headaches and snakebites. Onions were even thought to have been used as gifts and payments in some areas. As the Europeans ventured to the Americas in the 17th century, they brought with them the onion. However, they found the Native Americans were already making use of the wild onions that grew there.
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