Food as medicine – Onion family

Onion family or Allium family includes the onion, garlic, chives, scallion, leek and shallot and hundreds of wild species including Ramson (also known as Wild Garlic or Bear Garlic) which I have found grows in Hampstead Heath Park.

I’m sure all of the above mentioned members of Allium family are known to us through cooking. And their use and cultivation history go back as far as Bronze Age. Archaeological finds and written texts about onion and garlic are found from ancient Egypt, Greece, China, Rome and India; each prescribing medical applications.

Nowadays we know Garlic for its antibacterial and antiviral qualities, making it a favourite old-time remedy for coughs and colds.

When you have a blocked nose you can chop up one glove of garlic, wrap it in a piece of bandage and inhale it til your sense of smell returns. Tried and tested on myself – it works!

One other trick I did mention in my previous article was very thin slices of raw garlic on toast. Little butter, little salt and voile – simple but effective kick to boost your immune system when you are already feeling a bit under the weather.

I prefer raw rather than cooked, as cooking and heating will lessen the potency.

And last, but not least, garlic breath is a well-known repellent, and not only against vampires…

Unassuming Onion, suitable for use in savory dishes more often than not, come in many types and sizes. Southern grown onions, Spanish onions for example are sweeter in flavor, and suitable for raw dishes and salads; Northern grown, such as yellow and white onion give more of a kick. For centuries onion has been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections. Rich in Vit C, B6 and Iron, onion also has ‘tear-gas’. Or in better terms, when you cut an onion, enzymes get released which mixing with your tears, forming a sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid burns, stimulating your eyes to release more tears to wash the irritant away.

Shallots are often considered a gourmet food, but they’re very simple to grow in the home garden. They add a delicate, distinctive flavor to salads and cooked dishes but they don’t keep as well as onions. Besides just being a tasty bulb-vegetable, they are rich in Vit A, Iron and Manganese. Overall Shallots have better nutrition profile than onions.

Ramson (Allium Ursinum), is protected species but can be gathered in moderation and it makes a great salad or pesto. A word of warning – the leaves look very similar to Lily of the valley, which is poisonous. Wild garlic is distinctive though – crush the leaves between your fingers and the distinct smell of garlic will confirm if it’s the right one.


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