Why Does Cutting Onions Make You Cry?

Who hasn’t been brought to tears by onions? We certainly have — but that’s because we love them so darn much. For many other people, it’s because they decided to cut one open. And, for just as many people, the reason why cutting into that sweet, sweet onion sets the waterworks flowing is a mystery. 

Let us solve it for you. 

It’s Not an Emotional Reaction — It’s a Chemical One

Let’s start by reviewing a little onion anatomy. At the end of the day (and at the beginning as well…and really through the entire day, actually) an onion is a bulb. It grows under the ground. You know what else hangs out under the ground? Little critters who love to nibble on bulbs, like voles, moles, and groundhogs, oh my!

So, onions have a defense mechanism to protect them from all those unwanted nibbles. Enter chemical reactions. 

When the skin of an onion breaks, whether from a nibble or your favorite kitchen knife, it begins to release a combination of enzymes and sulfenic acid. When these two compounds come together, they create an extremely irritating gas called propanethial S-oxide. When this gas is released, it evaporates quickly and finds its way to — you guessed it — your eyes. When it hits the water that covers the surface of your eyes, it turns into sulfuric acid.

Now, here’s the thing. Just like the onions have a defense mechanism to keep them safe, so do your eyes. When the nerves in your eyes detect the sulfuric acid, they know they need to flush it out. Cue the tears. 

So, What’s an Onion Lover to Do? 

There are a lot of different ways that people say you can help yourself out in the onions and tears department. How effective these strategies are depends a lot on your own genetics, on the onion you’re cutting, and the universe in general. 

  • Put a barrier between you and that nasty onions gas by slicing onions under clear plastic or glass. 
  • Cut onions under a vent or fan to help disperse the gases away from your eyes. 
  • Freeze the onion before cutting it. 
  • Cut the onion under the water. 
  • Wear goggles. 
  • Cook the onion, then slice it. Cooking deactivates the enzymes.
  • Rinse your eyes after cutting to help flush out the sulfuric acid. 
  • Use a cold compress or even cucumber on your eyes to reduce the irritation after cutting (another vegetable to the rescue!).
  • Try clearing your eyes with some eye drops. 

The only sure fire way to not cry when cutting onions is to not cut them in the first place. 

Let Us Cut Your Onions for You

If you’re still chopping onions, it’s a crying shame! Why not let Gills Onions do the hard work for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a chef whipping up your signature dish or a home cook experimenting with a new recipe. Our sliced and diced, ready-to-use, value-added products save time — and tears — while delivering the best onion flavor there is. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Preparing a Generation for Sustainable Ag: How to Talk to Your Children

At Gills Onions, so much of what we do and how we do it is because we are thinking about future generations. We employ sustainable farming practices and strive to minimize our impact on the environment. But we realize that some of the most important work for the rising generation is done by parents in their homes. 

Talking to children about where their food and clothing comes from and the importance of sustainable agriculture is essential. When a child appreciates the role of agriculture in their everyday life, they are more conscientious about their own impact on our earth and want to share what they’ve learned with others. That is the basis of true change. 

How do you talk to your children about agriculture and sustainability? How can you help them gain an appreciation and respect for this essential industry? Here are a few ideas. 

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

Behind every piece of food you eat is a farmer. Farmers are also responsible for many of the clothes you wear, the carpets you walk on, the bedding you sleep with, and even the bandages you use when you’re injured. Agriculture keeps us alive, but farmers are one of the most forgotten groups of essential workers in our country. 

Starting a conversation on this important topic is simple. You may try asking your children, “Do you know where your food comes from?” or “We bought this onion at the store, but do you know where it came from before that?” 

Remember that a simple explanation is always best. Allow your children to lead the conversation and ask questions. Be honest and open, and if you don’t know the answer, say, “Let’s learn about it together.”

Fun Ideas for Learning About Agriculture

If you think agriculture is boring, think again! There are so many fun activities you can do with your children to learn more about farming, sustainability, and caring for our earth’s precious resources. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Go to the library and check out books about farming and agriculture. 
  • Look up your child’s favorite fruit or vegetable online and learn about how it grows and how it is harvested and brought from the farm to your table. 
  • Grow your own garden. You can even begin with a single potted plant in your windowsill. Teach children the basics of growing. 
  • Visit a local farm and learn firsthand from a real life farmer. 
  • Spend time on YouTube watching videos on growing and harvest crops (we use some pretty cool heavy machinery). You can even take virtual farm tours.
  • Conduct farming experiments. Expose plants to different nutrients and stimuli and observe how they react. 
  • Join a local farming co-op to try new vegetables directly from local farmers. 
  • Have children help plan family meals and shop for ingredients. 
  • Visit a farmer’s market and talk to the farmers about their goods. 
  • Visit a local pick-your-own fruits and vegetables farm. 

Healthy Habits Start with Food Appreciation

Obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the US. Part of encouraging children to develop a healthy relationship with food is being grateful for the food we eat. As children are exposed to a variety of fresh foods and are excited about trying new fruits and vegetables, they will develop healthy habits and positive associations with what they eat. 

And, as children think about caring and nurturing for the plants and animals that feed us, they will also think about sustainable ways to care for our planet and preserve it for their own children. 
We’re excited to partner with you as you delve into the exciting world of agriculture. Visit our blog for more ideas and information, and start by getting to know our farmers, Steve and David Gill.

Three Cheers for Onions! Join Gills Onions to Celebrate National Onion Month

June is National Onion Month! It’s time to celebrate all things onions and all the wonderful ways these versatile vegetables make life healthy and delicious. 

At Gills Onions, we couldn’t be prouder to be part of bringing this amazing product to your kitchens. That’s why we’re marking this month by sharing some of our favorite onion facts. We hope they help you appreciate onions as much as we do. 

Centuries of Amazing Onions

Before farming was invented, humans were eating onions. And, once the earliest humans began cultivating crops more than 5,000 years ago, onions were one of the first to be domesticated.

Onions were the perfect crop for early civilizations. Their hardy nature makes them less perishable than other fruits and vegetables. They are also easy to grow, easy to transport, and can be stored or dried to be used in times of scarcity. 

Ancient civilizations used onions not only for food but also for medicine, art, and worship. In Medieval times, onions were sometimes used as currency, rent payments, and even wedding gifts. 

When the first pilgrims arrived in America on the Mayflower, they brought onions, but surprise! Native Americans were already using wild onions for cooking and healing, as a source of dye, and even as toys.  

Americans Can’t Get Enough Onions

Today, onions are the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States, with over 125,000 acres of onions planted across the country. The average American eats 20 pounds of onions per year, which means our nation collectively eats over 450 semi-truck loads of onions each day

The onion is used in 93 percent of American dining establishments. It is one of the top menu items for appetizers with popular dishes like onion rings, onion blooms, and French onion soup. 

Hot tip: If you’ve really enjoyed your onions for the evening and are afraid of fragrant breath, freshen up by eating a bit of fresh parsley. 

Onions Are Great for Your Health

They don’t call onions nature’s ninja for nothing. Onions offer countless health benefits to everyone who eats them. 

In fact, the saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away could also be said of onions. Like apples, onions contain quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that helps delay oxidative damage to cells and tissue. And recent studies at Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands, demonstrate that the body absorbs three times more quercetin from onions than from apples. 

Onions are low in sodium and are fat-free. They are also high in essential nutrients including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron

New research shows that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Their natural ability to reduce inflammation also makes them helpful in treating respiratory illness

Celebrate by Eating an Onion

So, this month when you’re shopping or grabbing take out from your favorite restaurant, reach for the onions. As for Gills Onions, we’ll continue working alongside our fellow US onion growers and wonderful advocates like the National Onion Association to bring this amazing food to consumers like you. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

It’s National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month … Eat an Onion!

June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, and yes, it is a real holiday!

As the peak season for many early garden crops means they find their way into markets, this special month is an excellent time to take advantage of freshly picked fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are real foods that provide real benefits to your body. Instead of being filled with processed ingredients you can’t pronounce, you can rely on fruits and veggies to deliver essential vitamins and other nutrients. 

The saying goes, “You are what you eat.” So, why not be delicious and healthy? 

Real Foods, Real Benefits

The benefits of fruits and vegetables are no joke. Research shows that, “A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.” 

If you’re hoping to lose a few extra pounds, try eating non-starchy options like green leafy vegetables, apples, and pears. These types of produce have low glycemic loads, which help prevent the spikes in blood sugar that make you feel hungry. 

There are at least nine different families of fruits and veggies. Each of these groups contain hundreds of different organic compounds that boost health and deliver essential nutrients to your body. 

Here are a few highlights

  • Veggies are naturally low in both fat content and calories. 
  • No vegetables contain cholesterol. 
  • The folic acid found in fruits and veggies help your body form red blood cells. 
  • Produce is high in Vitamin A — which promotes healthy skin and eyes and protects against infections — and Vitamin C — which aids in iron absorption, promotes healing of cuts and wounds, and boosts the health of teeth and gums. 

Revamp Your Eating Habits with Fruits and Vegetables

Simply by swapping out processed or high sugar foods for fruits and veggies, we can all work to reverse national trends toward obesity and increase the quality and length of our lives. 

Here are a few simple ideas for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet:

  • Keep healthy options in view. Place snackable fruits and veggies in plain sight so they are the first things you see when you start to feel hungry. 
  • Prep for success. Keep individual portions of cleaned and chopped fruits and vegetables in containers or bags in your fridge, ready to grab for a snack or pack into lunches. 
  • Make trying something new a tradition. Each week, pick a new fruit or vegetable to try in your meals. You may find produce and recipes you never knew you liked before. 
  • Embrace variety. The larger the variety of fruits and veggies you consume, the better. Color is a great guide. Try to have a dark green, yellow or orange, and red fruit or veggie each day. 
  • Swap out carbs for vegetables. Instead of traditional pastas, try veggie based pastas or fresh veggie spirals. Cauliflower can be a great option instead of potatoes. 

A Good Word for Onions

Now, we have to put in a good word for onions. After all, at Gills Onions, we are the onion experts. We know how great onions can be for your health, and you should, too.

Onions are low in sodium, low in calories, and fat free. They contain high amounts of essential nutrients including: 

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron

You can use onions in a salve to treat insect stings or as the main ingredient in homemade cough syrup. Onions also contain powerful antioxidants that delay damage to your cells and tissues and eliminate free radicals in your body.

Studies show that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis. 

In short, onions are always a healthy choice! So, choose more fruits and veggies in your next meal (and don’t forget the onions!). 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

A Little Onion Goes a Long Way: Boosting Your Respiratory Health

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” and it’s true! What we put into our bodies becomes the fuel that allows our essential systems to function. And when we’re sick, the food we eat becomes critical medicine that enables us to fight off illnesses. 

We’re living in an unprecedented time as COVID-19 challenges our health, our jobs, and our sense of normalcy. But, at Gills Onions, we are proud to continue to work hard to supply America with a safe product that works to promote healthy living and tastes great, too. 

Boost Your Respiratory Health with Onions

The best thing you can do during the COVID-19 crisis is practice social distancing guidelines and follow recommendations from the CDC and WHO. But, while you are staying home, remember that the food you eat can help your immune system prepare to fight germs and disease. Instead of gravitating toward processed foods, reach for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Onions, especially, give your body the power to battle toxins that lead to illness because they contain high amounts of essential nutrients including: 

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc

The National Onion Association also reports that the organosulfur compounds responsible for the taste and smell of onions can reduce symptoms from diabetes and prevent inflammation from asthma.

For centuries, onions have been used as a home remedy to treat coughs and colds. Drinking onion juice or making your own onion syrup can soothe irritated throats. Those same sulfuric compounds that prevent inflammation also help fight mucus and act as a natural expectorant. 

Quercetin: Key for Good Health

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but the same could be said of onions. Like apples, onions contain quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that helps delay oxidative damage to cells and tissue. It also has antiviral properties and histamine regulating effects. 

Studies have shown that quercetin eliminates free radicals in the body, protects and regenerates vitamin E, and deactivates the harmful effects of chelate metal ions. It strengthens capillary walls to reduce inflammation and can also protect the lining of the lungs and bronchial tubes from damage caused by pollution and other contaminants in the air. 

Recent studies at Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands, demonstrate that the body absorbs three times more quercetin from onions than from apples. So, when in doubt, add some onion into your diet. 

Uniting Together to Fight for Good Health 

At Gills Onions and throughout the onion industry, we truly believe that onions are the perfect vegetable. For centuries, they have been a staple in diets around the world, and modern science continues to show us what eating onions can do for our collective health. Every fruit or vegetable that you eat fuels your body and boosts your immune system. 

As we face uncertainty, we hope that you will stand together with your communities and work to keep each other safe. Our team will continue to work hard to provide you with fresh vegetables that elevate your health and provide a consistent source of nutrition for our society year-round. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

National Garden Month

Growing Your Garden: Tips for Excellent Onions

April is National Garden Month. At Gills Onions, we grow vegetables on a large scale, but it doesn’t matter if you are planting thousands of acres or one window box. Growing your own food is an amazing thing. 

Agriculture brings us back in touch with where our food comes from and how it grows and gives us a sense of accomplishment that you can’t replicate doing anything else. Nurturing a plant and then reaping the delicious rewards deepens our respect for our amazing earth. 

So, if you’re considering getting your hands dirty, we’d like to recommend one of our favorite foods — onions!

Onions You Can Plant in Your Garden

The first thing you need to determine before you ever dig into the dirt is which type of onion you should plant. All onions are not created equal. Different onions grow better in different areas and climates. 

Onion bulbs grow in correlation with the length of daylight the plant receives. That’s why you’ll hear onions referred to as short-day, long-day, or intermediate. Short-day onions need about 10 hours of daylight. Long-day onions need closer to 15 hours of daylight. Intermediate onions tend to grow well in any climate and are less affected by the length of day. 

So, which onions should you plant? 

A good rule of thumb is to envision a line drawn across the United States from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. If you live north of this line, you should grow long-day onions. If you live south of this line, try a short-day instead. Anyone can try their hand at a day-neutral bulb. 

The Right Way to Plant Onions 

It takes about 120 days for an onion to grow. But, when you plant your onions depends largely on the variety of onion you plant. 

Short-day onions are typically planted in the late fall and harvested in spring. Long-day onions should be planted in early spring and harvested in the late summer. Day-neutral onions are planted in early spring for colder regions or in the fall for warmer regions. 

Planting your onions in a simple planter box is a great way to ensure your bulbs get the proper drainage and makes them easier to harvest. Remember, healthy soil grows healthy onions, so you need to focus on the dirt before you ever put bulbs in the ground. 

To ensure your onions have the right pH ranges in the soil and enough nutrients to grow, consider using a formulated raised bed soil from your local nursery or home improvement store. You can also improve the pH of your natural soil by mixing it with a few inches of rich organic matter, aged compost, or other natural fertilizers. Build the soil up high in the planter so your onions have a lot to work with. 

With soil in place, you’re ready to plant. Place each onion plant about 1 inch deep in the soil so that the roots are well covered but the plant’s neck (the green part) has room to breathe. Place each onion plant 6 inches apart. 

Keep the soil moist as your onions grow. Water your onions as soon as the top inch or so of the planter’s soil feels dry. 

The great thing about onions is that you can harvest at any time. Like we said before, you’ll want to wait about 120 days for a fully mature onion, but you can harvest onions when they are small as soon as a few weeks after planting. You’ve seen these onions in the store before — scallions. 

But if you dream of large juicy onions, watch the tops of your onion plant. When the tops begin to yellow and tip over, it’s time to pull the onions up, shake off the dirt, and place them out in the sun to cure. The key is to leave the green tops attached and keep the bulbs dry with circulating air. If you place your onions outside to dry, wait about a week before clipping off the onion tops and the roots. 

Gardening Is Good for You 

Gardening is good for you! It gets you outside absorbing Vitamin D, burns calories, and relieves stress. It also helps you eat healthier as you enjoy the fresh produce you have grown yourself. All of this leads to a stronger mind, a stronger body, and a stronger respect for where your food comes from. 

So, get out and garden!

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.