Using Onions To Heal Gunshot Wounds | The Fantastic History Of Food with Nick Charlie Key

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Key Takeaways

  • The onions are the most “emotional” of all vegetables due to the chemical irritant syn-propanethial S-oxide
  • “If we removed all the recipes that included onions, we would probably wipe out half of the dishes on earth.”Nick Charlie Key
  • In ancient Egypt, onions were the object of worship due to their many layers
    • The layers represented heaven, hell, earth, and eternal life
  • In the ancient Greek Olympics, onions seem to have been used as a form of doping
    • Athletes ate large quantities of onions to increase their strength and courage
  • In the American Civil War, onions were routinely used to treat solider’s gunshot wounds
  • They were also used as a protection against typhus fever and dysentery (a type of gastroenteritis) – a soldier’s worst nightmare
  • Nutritional data backs up many of these practices:
    • Vitamin C strengthens our immune system
    • Selenium stimulates the immune system to function optimally
  • Onions have anti-inflammatory qualities (they help slow down oxidative damage to cells and protect against heart disease)
  • Bermuda was once known as the world’s foremost onion producing region
    • “Bermuda onion was not like the generic onions we know today, they were, in fact, sweet enough to eat raw.”Nick Charlie Key

Intro

  • “Strange, but true stories from history that in some way involve food.”Nick Charlie Key
  • In this episode, Nick Charlie Key explores the history and origins of one of nature’s most versatile and “emotional” vegetables – onions. Learn about the meaning of onions in our mythology, and why athletes used onion juice to prepare for the ancient Olympics

The Most “Emotional” of All Vegetables

  • The onions are the most “emotional” of all vegetables due to the chemical irritant syn-propanethial S-oxide
    • They have been a part of our diets for over 5000 years, and are the basis of many cuisines worldwide
  • Possibly nature’s most versatile product; they add flavor to food, but they also have substantial medicinal qualities
  • Archeologists, botanists, and food historians inform us that onions first originated somewhere in Central Asia
    • Alternative research points to the Middle East: Iran and West Pakistan
  • They were used long before the development of farming and agriculture
  • One of the first crops to be domesticated and farmed on a large scale
    • When the first European settlers came to the Americas, onions were one of the few crops they brought with them
    • This is because they are easy to grow (they thrive in a variety of different soils) and can grow in many climates 
  • They are also hardy, less perishable, and can be transported long distances without spoiling
  • “If we removed all the recipes that included onions, we would probably wipe out half of the dishes on earth.”Nick Charlie Key

Onion History and Medicinal Qualities

  • Western “Mono” tribe origin story
    • A group of six wives went to gather food and snacked on some wild onions
    • When they returned home, their husbands were horrified by their breath and told them to leave
    • The men began to miss their wives and went out to look for them but it was too late
    • The women wandered off into the sky to enjoy their onions in peace
    • They became the six-star cluster, known as the Pleiades
  • In ancient Egypt, onions were the object of worship due to their many layers
    • The layers represented heaven, hell, earth, and eternal life
    • Ramesses IV, king of Egypt was buried with onions in his eye sockets
  • Chinese also believed the onions had a strong link to the afterlife
    • Onions were believed to have magical properties that could repel evil spirits
    • They would eat large amounts of onion when they got sick
  • In the ancient Greek Olympics, onions seem to have been used as a form of doping
    • Athletes ate large quantities of onions to increase their strength and courage
    • They used them as a thirst quencher and body fortifier
    • “Onion juice seemed to function as an ancient Greek equivalent to Red Bull.”Nick Charlie Key
    • They would also massage their bodies with onions to toughen up their skins
  • Nutritional data backs up many of these practices;
    • Vitamin C strengthens our immune system
    • Selenium stimulates the immune system to function optimally
  • This makes sense because onions do have anti-inflammatory qualities (they help slow down oxidative damage to cells and protect against heart disease)

Using Onions to Heal Gunshot Wounds

  • In the American Civil War, onions were routinely used to treat solider’s gunshot wounds
    • They became an important part of the battlefield treatment regime “…when a supply of onions was running low, general Ulysses S. Grant sent an angry letter to the war department at Washington saying simply: ‘I will not move my troops without onions’.”Nick Charlie 
  • Onions and garlic were used in both World Wars I and II for their medicinal properties
    • Garlic juice prevents streptococcus (the bacteria that causes pneumonia and scarlet fever) and staphylococcus (which can cause vomiting and diarrhea)
    • It can also be used as a protection against typhus fever and dysentery (a type of gastroenteritis) – a soldier’s worst nightmare

Bermuda Onions and “Onion Men”

  • Bermuda was once known as the world’s foremost onion producing region
    • It was nicknamed the “onion patch”
    • The seamen and merchants from Bermuda were known as the “onion men”
  • By 1844, Bermuda was growing approximately 350,000 pounds of onion per year (almost everything was for foreign export)
    • In 1887, Mark Twain visited Bermuda and wrote about onions as absolute perfection
  • What made the Bermuda onion more desirable than other onions?
    • “Bermuda onion was not like the generic onions we know today, they were, in fact, sweet enough to eat raw.”Nick Charlie Key
    • They were served as snacks on ships, there was no need to fry them first
  • The US (their biggest importer) slapped a hefty import tax on foreign onions and this led to the death of Bermuda’s onion trade
  • By the end of World War I, the Texan onion trade was booming. One Texan farming community even renamed their town to Bermuda, Texas to sell their onions as Bermuda onions
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Notes By Dario

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