Gardeners, please join us tonight at the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society regular meeting, 7:00 p.m. at the Sunshine Room, SIGN on North Street. Our guest tonight will be Don Stein, speaking to us about “Photography in the Garden and Nature Settings”. I know Don will have some excellent tips for us on how to capture the beauty of our gardens in photos. Don said that if you would like to bring your camera along that would be a great help in explaining what we should and shouldn’t do as photographers. That’s tonight at 7p.m.
The other day, we were watching a great cooking show, and in casual conversation, the chefs mentioned some folklore about the onion. My curiosity was piqued, as well as my appetite, so after a little snack, I thought I should do a bit of research about the much used, much loved onion.
What a great vegetable! How could we get by without the awesome onion? First, a very brief history lesson. Onions go back thousands of years to the time of the Egyptians, and possibly even further back than that. For the average Egyptian, onions were a basic food staple, as well as a suitable offering in their temples. Both practical and beautiful, onions were honored in their art, appearing more often than any other plant.
The humble onion was also seen as a mystical representation of life after death, with the layers of the onion having never-ending circles that illustrated eternal life. Onions were often buried with the mighty pharaohs; archeologists found bits of onion in the eye sockets of King Ramses IV. Imagine that!
Onions may have been seen as a poor man’s food through history because they grew easily in so many locations, but they were also seen as very powerful. The onion’s strong smell and flavor meant that if one ate the onion, one would become strong, too. Fearless Roman gladiators rubbed onions on their muscles to make them firm and even stronger. By the time of the Middle Ages, people used onions as currency and gave them as gifts. The emperor Charlemagne had onions in his Royal Garden, and onions were accepted as payment for land use.
Another little historical factoid: Columbus took onions on his voyages to the new world. While folks in the new world were already familiar with wild onions, they loved the cultivated varieties that Columbus brought along. Another onion tidbit: in an area of the United States that grew many wild onions, the First Nations people there had an Indian name for the area that smelled so much like onions: they called it “Chicago”.
Onions were used for many medicinal purposes, and scientific studies even today show that the onion does indeed have many beneficial properties. Growing them is easy, whether you start them from seeds or bulbs. They are not very fussy about soil preferences, but they do like sun and good drainage. They’re tough, because every spring, don’t we all have some sturdy volunteer onions that came up from the year before? Who would have thought they could make it over winter? There are many varieties for all tastes, including “everyday” yellow onions; their fancy cousins, the white onions; the high-falutin’ shallots; the teenagers of the onion family, green or spring onions; and I think one of the prettiest vegetables, the red onion. And their uses in the kitchen are virtually limitless. No wonder we couldn’t even imagine being without the awesome onion!
I hope you had a great Mother’s Day weekend; remember our tradition of planting something special in memory of someone dear to you. A very dear friend gave us a lovely rose in memory of my precious SweetPea; when I plant it, I will think of Mom, and also the caring friend who gave us the rose. That’s the beauty of gardening, it ties us together in very special ways. Have a great week!