Friday, January 8, 2016

This is Fantastic! What's Your Secret Ingredient?

Meet The Family, Part 2: Garlic & Onions

The more Tiny cooks, the more she seems to come in contact with some of the same ingredients. Garlic and onions have made their way into many of Tiny’s meals lately. Turkey meatloaf, beet tzatziki, cauliflower soup, salmon lettuce wraps - they all get an extra boost of flavor from one or both of these ingredients! This week, Tiny decided to take a look into these veggies to see just how they help make her meals taste so delicious.

As it turns out, garlic and onions both belong to the Allium Family, which is a genus of flowering plants with over 750 different species! They grow mainly in Asia, the Mediterranean, and western North America. Not all alliums are edible, but those that are add a variety of flavors and textures into meals, which makes them popular ingredients around the world. Garlic, shallots, leeks, chives, and green, red, white, and yellow onions are just a few of the ones most commonly used. Raw or roasted, sauteed or pickled, this family of plants is incredibly versatile, which is what makes them so fun to cook with!

Tiny loves to eat alliums, but often wonders how something that smells stinky can taste so good! Plants in the allium family produce sulfuric compounds that give them their characteristic taste and odor. In fact, the word allium comes from the Greek word aleo, “to avoid”, due to their unpleasant scent. Cooking raw onion and garlic tends to lessen their sulfur taste. And the sulfur isn't just a flavor or smell - it is also known for its cancer-fighting properties!

By the way, have you ever cried while helping to cut an onion? Slicing onions breaks the cell walls, releasing an enzyme that reacts with the water in your eyes to form sulfuric acid. Your body naturally produces tears to help clean this acid out of your eyes! Here's a trick: an adult can use a very sharp wet knife when cutting onions, since a sharp blade will damage fewer of the onion's cells, creating less of this enzyme, causing less tears! 

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Post and photo credits: Cassie Sciortino

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