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Still Life with OnionsOnion
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Still Life with Onions, Dārza sīpols (Allium cepa), Sīpoli (Allium), Klusā daba

Still Life with Onions

Code: A-191-18-AP
Author: Aija Pastare
Photo taken on September 20, 2018
FREE 1000 x 667 px
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MB
M 3000 x 2000 px
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The onion (Allium cepa L., from Latin cepa "onion"), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable that is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. Its close relatives include the garlic, leek, chive, and Chinese onion.

This genus also contains several other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion (Allium fistulosum), the tree onion (A. ×proliferum), and the Canada onion (Allium canadense). The name "wild onion" is applied to a number of Allium species, but A. cepa is exclusively known from cultivation. Its ancestral wild original form is not known, although escapes from cultivation have become established in some regions. The onion is most frequently a biennial or a perennial plant, but is usually treated as an annual and harvested in its first growing season.

The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves and its bulb at the base of the plant begins to swell when a certain day-length is reached. The bulbs are composed of shortened, compressed, underground stems surrounded by fleshy modified scale (leaves) that envelop a central bud at the tip of the stem. In the autumn (or in spring, in the case of overwintering onions), the foliage dies down and the outer layers of the bulb become dry and brittle. The crop is harvested and dried and the onions are ready for use or storage. The crop is prone to attack by a number of pests and diseases, particularly the onion fly, the onion eelworm, and various fungi cause rotting. Some varieties of A. cepa, such as shallots and potato onions, produce multiple bulbs.

Onions are cultivated and used around the world. As a food item, they are usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a prepared savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain chemical substances which irritate the eyes.

Onion
 Allium cepa
 Kingdom:     Plantae
 Clade:  Angiosperms
 Clade:  Monocots
 Order:  Asparagales
 Family:  Amaryllidaceae
 Subfamily:  Allioideae
 Genus:  Allium
 Species:  A. cepa

Taxonomy and etymology
The onion plant (Allium cepa), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. It was first officially described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 work Species Plantarum. A number of synonyms have appeared in its taxonomic history:

  • Allium cepa var. aggregatum – G. Don
  • Allium cepa var. bulbiferum – Regel
  • Allium cepa var. cepa – Linnaeus
  • Allium cepa var. multiplicans – L.H. Bailey
  • Allium cepa var. proliferum – (Moench) Regel
  • Allium cepa var. solaninum – Alef
  • Allium cepa var. viviparum – (Metz) Mansf.

A. cepa is known exclusively from cultivation, but related wild species occur in Central Asia. The most closely related species include A. vavilovii (Popov & Vved.) and A. asarense (R.M. Fritsch & Matin) from Iran. However, Zohary and Hopf state that "there are doubts whether the A. vavilovii collections tested represent genuine wild material or only feral derivatives of the crop."

The vast majority of cultivars of A. cepa belong to the "common onion group" (A. cepa var. cepa) and are usually referred to simply as "onions". The Aggregatum group of cultivars (A. cepa var. aggregatum) includes both shallots and potato onions.

The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion (A. fistulosum), Egyptian onion (A. ×proliferum), and Canada onion (A. canadense).

Cepa is commonly accepted as Latin for "onion" and has an affinity with Ancient Greek: κάπια (kápia), Albanian: qepë, Aromanian: tseapã, Catalan: ceba, English: chive, Occitan: ceba, Spanish: cebolla, Old French: cive, and Romanian: ceapă.

Description
The onion plant has been grown and selectively bred in cultivation for at least 7,000 years. It is a biennial plant, but is usually grown as an annual. Modern varieties typically grow to a height of 15 to 45 cm (6 to 18 in). The leaves are yellowish- to bluish green and grow alternately in a flattened, fan-shaped swathe. They are fleshy, hollow, and cylindrical, with one flattened side. They are at their broadest about a quarter of the way up, beyond which they taper towards a blunt tip. The base of each leaf is a flattened, usually white sheath that grows out of a basal disc. From the underside of the disc, a bundle of fibrous roots extends for a short way into the soil. As the onion matures, food reserves begin to accumulate in the leaf bases and the bulb of the onion swells.

In the autumn, the leaves die back and the outer scales of the bulb become dry and brittle, so the crop is then normally harvested. If left in the soil over winter, the growing point in the middle of the bulb begins to develop in the spring. New leaves appear and a long, stout, hollow stem expands, topped by a bract protecting a developing inflorescence. The inflorescence takes the form of a globular umbel of white flowers with parts in sixes. The seeds are glossy black and triangular in cross section. The average pH of an onion is around 5.5

Uses
Origin and history
Because the wild onion is extinct and ancient records of using onions span western and eastern Asia, the geographic origin of the onion is uncertain, with likely domestication worldwide. Food uses of onions date back thousands of years in China, Egypt and Persia.

Traces of onions recovered from Bronze Age settlements in China suggest that onions were used as far back as 5000 BCE, not only for their flavour, but the bulb's durability in storage and transport. Ancient Egyptians revered the onion bulb, viewing its spherical shape and concentric rings as symbols of eternal life. Onions were used in Egyptian burials, as evidenced by onion traces found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV.

Pliny the Elder of the first century CE wrote about the use of onions and cabbage in Pompeii. He documented Roman beliefs about the onion's ability to improve ocular ailments, aid in sleep, and heal everything from oral sores and toothaches to dog bites, lumbago, and even dysentery. Archaeologists unearthing Pompeii long after its 79 CE volcanic burial have found gardens resembling those in Pliny's detailed narratives. According to texts collected in the fifth/sixth century CE under the authorial aegis of "Apicius" (said to have been a gourmet), onions were used in many Roman recipes.

In the Age of Discovery, onions were taken to North America by the first European settlers, only to discover the plant readily available, and in wide use in Native American gastronomy. According to diaries kept by certain of the first English colonists, the bulb onion was one of the first crops planted by the Pilgrim fathers.

Onion types and products
Common onions are normally available in three colour varieties. Yellow or brown onions (called red in some European countries), are full-flavoured and are the onions of choice for everyday use, with many cultivars bred specifically to demonstrate this sweetness (Vidalia, Walla Walla, Cévennes, "Bermuda," &c.). Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when caramelised and give French onion soup its sweet flavour. The red onion (called purple in some European countries) is a good choice for fresh use when its colour livens up the dish; it is also used in grilling. White onions are the traditional onions used in classic Mexican cuisine; they have a golden colour when cooked and a particularly sweet flavour when sautéed.

While the large, mature onion bulb is most often eaten, onions can be eaten at immature stages. Young plants may be harvested before bulbing occurs and used whole as spring onions or scallions. When an onion is harvested after bulbing has begun, but the onion is not yet mature, the plants are sometimes referred to as "summer" onions.

Additionally, onions may be bred and grown to mature at smaller sizes. Depending on the mature size and the purpose for which the onion is used, these may be referred to as pearl, boiler, or pickler onions, but differ from true pearl onions which are a different species. Pearl and boiler onions may be cooked as a vegetable rather than as an ingredient and pickler onions are often preserved in vinegar as a long-lasting relish.

Onions are available in fresh, frozen, canned, caramelised, pickled, and chopped forms. The dehydrated product is available as kibbled, sliced, ring, minced, chopped, granulated, and powder forms.

Onion powder is a seasoning widely used when the fresh ingredient is not available. It is made from finely ground, dehydrated onions, mainly the pungent varieties of bulb onions, and has a strong odour. Being dehydrated, it has a long shelf life and is available in several varieties: yellow, red, and white.

Culinary uses
Onions are commonly chopped and used as an ingredient in various hearty warm dishes, and may also be used as a main ingredient in their own right, for example in French onion soup, creamed onions, and onion chutney. They are versatile and can be baked, boiled, braised, grilled, fried, roasted, sautéed, or eaten raw in salads. Their layered nature makes them easy to hollow out once cooked, facilitating stuffing them, as in Turkish sogan-dolma.

Onions pickled in vinegar are eaten as a snack around the world, and as a side serving in pubs and fish and chip shops throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. They are part of a traditional British pub's ploughman's lunch, usually served with crusty bread, English cheese, and ale.

Similar to garlic, onions can show an additional colour – pink-red – after cutting, an effect caused by reactions of amino acids with sulfur compounds.

Non-culinary uses
Onions have particularly large cells that are readily observed under low magnification. Forming a single layer of cells, the bulb epidermis is easy to separate for educational, experimental, and breeding purposes.

Onions are, therefore, commonly employed in science education to teach the use of a microscope for observing cell structure.

Onions are toxic to dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and many other animals.

Composition
Nutrients
Most onion cultivars are about 89% water, 9% carbohydrates (including 4% sugar and 2% dietary fibre), 1% protein, and negligible fat (table). Onions contain low amounts of essential nutrients and have an energy value of 166 kJ (40 Calories) in a 100 g (3.5 oz) amount. Onions contribute savoury flavour to dishes without contributing significant caloric content.

Phytochemicals
Considerable differences exist between onion varieties in phytochemical content, particularly for polyphenols, with shallots having the highest level, six times the amount found in Vidalia onions. Yellow onions have the highest total flavonoid content, an amount 11 times higher than in white onions. Red onions have considerable content of anthocyanin pigments, with at least 25 different compounds identified representing 10% of total flavonoid content.

Onion polyphenols are under basic research to determine their possible biological properties in humans.

Some people suffer from allergic reactions after handling onions. Symptoms can include contact dermatitis, intense itching, rhinoconjunctivitis, blurred vision, bronchial asthma, sweating, and anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions may not occur when eating cooked onions, possibly due to the denaturing of the proteins from cooking.

Eye irritation
Freshly cut onions often cause a stinging sensation in the eyes of people nearby, and often uncontrollable tears. This is caused by the release of a volatile gas, syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which stimulates nerves in the eye. This gas is produced by a chain of reactions which serve as a defence mechanism: chopping an onion causes damage to cells which releases enzymes called alliinases. These break down amino acid sulfoxides and generate sulfenic acids. A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, is rapidly acted on by a second enzyme, the lacrimatory factor synthase, producing the syn-propanethial-S-oxide. This gas diffuses through the air and soon reaches the eyes, where it activates sensory neurons. Lacrimal glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant.

Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water. Leaving the root end intact also reduces irritation as the onion base has a higher concentration of sulphur compounds than the rest of the bulb. Refrigerating the onions before use reduces the enzyme reaction rate and using a fan can blow the gas away from the eyes. The more often one chops onions, the less one experiences eye irritation.

The amount of sulfenic acids and lacrimal factor released and the irritation effect differs among Allium species. In 2008, the New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research created "no tears" onions by genetic modification to prevent the synthesis of lachrymatory factor synthase in onions. One study suggests that consumers prefer the flavor of onions with lower LFS content. However, since the LFS-silencing process involves reducing sulfur ingestion by the plant, it has also been suggested that LFS− onions are inferior in flavor. A method for efficiently differentiating LFS− and LFS+ onions has been developed based on mass spectrometry, with potential application in high-volume production; gas chromatography is also used to measure lachrymatory factor in onions. In early 2018, Bayer released the first crop yield of commercially-available LFS-silenced onions under the name "Sunions." They were the product of 30 years of cross-breeding; genetic modification was not employed.

Guinea hen weed and honey garlic contain a similar lachrymatory factor. Synthetic onion lachrymatory factor has been used in a study related to tear production, and has been proposed as a nonlethal deterrent against thieves and intruders.
en.wikipedia.org

Still Life with Onions

Code: A-191-18-AP
Author: Aija Pastare
Photo taken on September 20, 2018
FREE 1000 x 667 px
72 dpi
101 KB
S 1748 x 1165 px
14.8 x 9.87 cm / 300 dpi
MB
M 3000 x 2000 px
25.4 x 16.93 cm / 300 dpi
L 3888 x 2592 px
32.92 x 21.95 cm / 300 dpi
6.1 MB
XL 6000 x 4000 px
50.8 x 33.87 cm / 300 dpi
12.2 MB
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