Many times we hear of an Onion being touted as a cure-all for many health issues. Well, actually it is Garlic, but since Garlic sort of has a bad rap, so many people will settle for second best, the good old Onion. However, the growing conditions are similar for both plants, with a few different ideas for best growth and quality. 

The purpose of this discussion is to associate the Onion and the E-Lectures on various minerals and their association with Onion production and quality.  The main mineral to focus on with Onion production is Sulfur. When we hear of the Onion, we think a pungent, strong odor with a hot flavor when introduced to the tongue. Oh, let's not forget the eye-watering as well. 

The growing medium, soil, must be prepared with the proper ratios and quantities of nutrients as with any other crop. The main difference between growing onions and garlic is that the planting of most onions take place in the spring and most garlic takes place in the fall of the year. Now, this is where we start to see a difference in how they are cared for will produce a different end product. How many of you have heard of a particular variety of onion, called, Vidalia?  This variety is a sweet flavored onion. It is not a strong pungent flavored onion. But in order to get this sweet flavored the grower will deprive the soil and ultimately the onion it's self by withholding Sulfur. But this sweetness comes at a price, that price is that they do not store very well. So this variety as with other super sweet onions puts them into the "fresh" onion market, ie; available for only a short time of the year. The sweetness is arrived at by paying a price of a short storage life of this onion. Also, this lower Sulfur level also makes the onion more susceptible to damage from various pests. This is because of Sulfur, being a crucial factor in many of the amino acids associated with the onion and its DNA structure. So overall, the growing of onions, not only just the Vidalia variety, can be made sweeter at the expense of overall quality. The one factor that does this is Sulfur. This can come by the way of low Sulfur soils and/or by withholding Sulfur as part of the nutritional program of the growing of the onion. Another factor in this sweetness is the pH level of the soil. As the pH level slides away from the acidic low numbers toward the less acidic levels, the sweetness of the onion will become sweeter. But this contribution can be worked with as well, but none of these factors will contribute to the sweetness as much as the Sulfur aspect will. 

Let us not forget the eye-watering aspect of the onions.  What causes this? Part of the natural defense mechanism of an onion is that when their tissue is injured it releases a compound that when mixed with water will produce.. drum roll.. a Sulfur related product, Sulfuric Acid. . So what do we do when we get the eye-watering going on when we are peeling onions??? We turn on the water. Comical isn't it! About all we accomplish is that we wash away all of the compounds that make the Sulfuric Acid. That is why the water helps, yet is a major factor in causing the eye-watering.  Now, on the other hand, have you noticed that some onions don't make your eyes water when peeling them? Have you noticed that those onions are also sweet..as in sweet to very sweet?  Low Sulfur onions are the key factor here. 

The main factor in planting Onions in the spring rather than the fall is due to growing seasons. In places where you have a long growing season and the "winter" growing season allows for growing of onions, such as many southern areas of the southern states, California and Florida,  onions will be planted so as to avoid the harsh heat conditions of the hot parts of the summer. The heat of the summer in these areas tend to not make for the best onions. With Garlic, the bulbs are generally grown best when planted in the fall of the year and wintered over to start their natural growth in the spring. 

We will leave the discussion here, as the point of this discussion is to point out the relationship of Sulfur to the growing of onions. I threw in some related stuff as a gee-whiz aspect to the onion. But one thing for sure, in my book, an onion is a necessary part of life. You can't live without an onion in the diet and by extension, you can't live without a good amount of Sulfur in your diet either. The onion is one of the best and most readily available sources of Sulfur, the good form of Sulfur, for our optimal health.  BTW, the old thing of an apple a day.. to keep the doctor away??? If I was forced to choose between having an apple a day or an onion a day.. of the same size.. as much as I like an apple, I would have to go with the onion.


Kent King