ONIONS ARE A STAPLE FOOD PRODUCE AVAILABLE TO MAINTAIN GOOD HEALTH THIS WINTER.
Onions come in all shapes and sizes, colours, and textures. This vegetable makes a valuable fibre and Vitamin C contribution to our daily meals.
The botanical name for onions is Allium cepa and comes from the cultivated species of the genus Allium. Its closest types are Chinese onions, potato onions, leeks, shallots, chives and garlic.
The vegetable is packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants. Onions have anti-bacterial properties; and red onions have anti-inflammatory properties excellent for heart health.
Onions are easy to grow and prepare. They can be grown in a family kitchen garden or allotment with little maintenance, or on the balcony in a terracotta pot.
When selecting a bag of raw onions or raw onions from a produce storage bin, make sure the produce is clean and healthy.
But caveat emptor (buyer beware) if you are in the U.S.A. or Canada. According to a BBC online news story, on 12 August 2020, currently there is concern in North America that a range of onions sold to US and Canadian-based food stores since 1 May might be causing a public health issue. *
The news report suggests that on 1 August 2020, Thomson International began recalling its US-grown onions as a salmonella outbreak began in the USA and Canada. The red, white and yellow onions shipped and marketed to a range of food stores across 50 American states and in Canada have been pulled from circulation.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada are concerned about the food safety issue regarding onions grown in the United States in 2020.
The report says that since 1 August, more than 600 people in 43 American states and 200 people in Canada have taken ill with salmonella as a result of eating the onions. Of that number, 85 people in America are in hospital.
Even cooked onions in commercially-prepared food products can cause salmonella poisoning. Children, the elderly and the infirmed are particularly prone to salmonella. The main physical symptoms are diarrhea, fever, and cramps.
The news report says it is necessary that the US-grown onions be disposed of carefully. Sanitizing surfaces which have been in contact with the onions and its bacteria is critical for health and safety. Leaving the US-grown onions near other food will encourage bacterial growth and lead to spoiling of all the food.
“The rotten apple injures its neighbours” is an English proverb of advice which highlights the need for (food) safety. **
The proverb stresses the importance of keeping all matters fresh, clean and healthy. That is, one bad apple rots the other apples. They all end up rotten to the core.
Further, there are dangers in storing bad food produce and disintegrating food items with the clean and healthy food. If this occurs, the food produce becomes contaminated and spoiled.
Should spoilt food be used in cooking to create new food products, then food poisoning could result. This becomes a public health matter. Food poisoning can cause serious health issues for the physically vulnerable.
Similarly, one person can have a bad influence on other people. We know that there are dangers in keeping company with sick people if we do not want to end up sick ourselves. Therefore, make sure that you maintain good food in your kitchen for healthy eating and a healthy life.
Occupational Health and Safety
Some people are concerned about Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). They do not like to cut and peel onions because they experience the onion’s eye-watering effects. To manage this, put your onions in a plastic sealed tub in the refrigerator overnight. When the onion is cut, the coldness prevents the onion odour and spray from emanating.
This is a tried and tested way to have a happy onion-cutting practicum which should mitigate some OH&S issues. If you are in any doubt, then also wear Perspex eye wear with side covers or a PPE face shield for added comfort. Try using plastic gloves during your preparation phase if you do not like onion odour on your skin.
If you peel or cut an onion, do not leave the onion shells indoors overnight as onion odour does linger. Put the onion’s outer shells into a compost area or dispose of in a sealed plastic-lined bin. Leftover onion shells make valuable compost for the garden. Red onions shells can be used for dyeing textiles.
In a compost bin, the snugs and snails will go for the weaknesses in plants including any decomposing onion shells. The insects will breakdown the fibres of the onion shells. They help to produce valuable richness to the soil that assists in growing new crops of vegetables.
Text copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2020 and acknowledged sources.
* BBC (2020) ‘US stores recall onions amid salmonella outbreaks’, 12 August 2020, retrieved 12 August 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53740843
** Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting, ‘English Proverbs Explained’, Pan Books Limited, London, England, 1967, p. 145.
Photography copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2020.
Uploaded 12 August 2020.