Do it your­self food

Give them a llit­tle added kick.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

Give your onions a good kick

You wouldn’t think an onion could be viewed as a time trav­el­ling de­vice but the huge one I dis­cov­ered at a stall at the Nel­son Mar­ket re­cently cer­tainly was. Long ago, in what one of Amy Tan’s char­ac­ters calls ‘lit­tle girl time’, I had held an­other such gi­ant onion in my hand. I was on my OE in Canada, work­ing for a home­opath in Bri­tish Columbia and com­pil­ing an or­ganic hand­book for the area. One of the joys of the job was in­ter­view­ing or­ganic grow­ers to find out what they had to of­fer, when and where.

I had re­ceived a lead on an el­derly cou­ple grow­ing or­gan­i­cally living down near Osoy­oos, not far from the US bor­der, so I cruised on down in my boss’s smart lit­tle MGB to find them. At this stage of my life I thought I knew it all, but I didn’t re­alise un­til I took that Nel­son gi­ant onion into my hands just what an im­pact those folks had on the course of my life from that point on­wards. They were, with­out want­ing to sound too clichéd, lovely peo­ple, kind and gen­er­ous (they gave me one of their gi­ant white onions to take home), pa­tient and to­tally pas­sion­ate about living sim­ply and or­gan­i­cally in com­mu­nion with the earth. They showed me a dif­fer­ent way to be.

With the slow care of el­derly peo­ple who had worked hard all their lives, with smiles on their faces, they took me out to have a look around, show­ing me the deer paths travers­ing through their ex­ten­sive gar­den patch. At one point, they had con­sid­ered fenc­ing it, but af­ter ob­serv­ing the deer for a while they re­alised that they were happy to share a bit of what they had. There were scare­crows set up, and flicker tape to keep graz­ing to a min­i­mum, but af­ter 35 years the deer had be­come com­pan­ions and there was no de­sire to frighten them away.

They told me they had met an el­der from the lo­cal First Na­tions tribe years ago, who en­cour­aged them to talk to the deer, to ask the an­i­mals to re­spect their need to grow food. This, they be­lieved, had worked, cre­at­ing yet an­other sa­cred and nec­es­sary con­nec­tion with their sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

With th­ese pleas­ant mem­o­ries cours­ing through my mind, I took it upon my­self to make some­thing in­ter­est­ing with my Nel­son onions. Usu­ally they are a means to an end in my kitchen, such as in a soup or stew. I had never thought of them as a spe­cial veg­etable in their own right un­til a friend of ours, Mony­een, who lived in Lochmara Bay for many years, once asked me if I knew a good recipe for onion mar­malade. I had never tasted it so hunted some down. I was dis­ap­pointed. There was no WOW fac­tor in this brown

There was no WOW fac­tor in this brown stuff so I didn't

make any.

stuff, so I didn’t go out and make any.

Then I came across this ver­sion (at right) and it has been quite a hit in my heat-and-onion-lov­ing fam­ily. In fact, onion mar­malade on fresh bal­samic onion bread turned out to be very tasty in­deed. One thing I did find though is that the taste of the onion mar­malade changes con­sid­er­ably depend­ing on what va­ri­ety of chili you use. My favourites have to be haben­eros, with their earthy rich flavour.

Theo (10) has re­cently learnt that onions have a ninja side. We all know that as soon as you cut into an onion, tears begin to course mer­rily down the cheeks. All sorts of reme­dies are sug­gested: hold­ing a peg be­tween your teeth, wear­ing sun­glasses, freeze the onion halves for 10 min­utes be­fore you chop. What I now know, thanks to Theo, is that the hum­ble onion is only do­ing its best to de­fend it­self. It doesn’t want me to eat it so it tries to stop me by blind­ing me with al­lyl sul­phide gas. This gas, when mixed with mois­ture (wa­ter) con­verts into sul­fu­ric acid thus caus­ing the clas­sic signs of ir­ri­ta­tion to mu­cus mem­branes, eyes and skin that we all love to hate, given our love for all things with onion. n

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