While North American wild onions were used pre-European contact by Native
Americans for everything from poultices to dyes, the Pilgrims brought our
familiar Eurasian bulb onion with them on the Mayflower. Pere Marquette, a
French Jesuit missionary, was saved by starvation by eating wild onions, and
the point on the southern shore of Lake Michigan where he saw wild onions
running rampant probably took its name - Chicago - from the Indian word
'checago', referring to the pungent smell of the plants.
Onions contain compounds called alliums, good for everything from lowering
blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol to raising the levels of "good"
The cipolline variety of onion, originally from Italy, is small and slightly
sweet; pearl onions are not baby onions as they appear, but mature onions
cultivated close together, the dense-pack bulbs stunting each other's
growth. Walla Walla onions are named after the valley in Southeastern
Washington state where they are prominently grown: they are sweet and
available throughout the summer. Spanish onions, whether red or yellow, are
also mild in flavor. While the globe onion originally came from England, it
has evolved into a completely American variety.
A trick to raising organic onions while avoiding onion maggots is to apply a
strong tea of burdock leaves around the base of the plants.