Onions of great flavor and questionable character

Photo courtesy of Doreen Howard
The poor persecuted onion still tastes wonderful, despite its centuries-old shady reputation.

Italian Red Torpedo, Yellow Globe, and Spanish Sweet White onions harvested from the garden a couple weeks ago are finally dry enough to store in mesh bags for the winter.

I grow a variety of onions, because they have different flavors. They keep for at least six months if placed in mesh bags, which I fashion from bird netting. Cool, dry air that's above freezing provides the perfect environment for storage.

I put them in the basement, but if your garage is heated or you live in a warmer climate, use it.

As I sort the globes, my old friend Dr. Jerry Parsons and his onion laws come to mind. The retired Texas A&M University horticulture professor was fascinated with onerous laws that malign the humble onion. Some regulations are more 100 years old and still enforced.

Jerry also clued me in to the belief in aphrodisiac properties of onions, cooked or raw. Priests in ancient Egypt were banned from consuming onions for fear they would break their vows of celibacy. And the French may still bring onion soup to newlyweds the morning after the ceremony to renew their ardor, according to Jerry. But then he’s prone to tall Texas tales.

Here are some of my favorite onion lawsthat  he collected. Even if most have been repealed, they still are interesting. To read them all, click here.

Tearful punishment
•    A wife has the legal right in Wolf Point, Mont., to force her spouse to eat raw onions if she finds him drinking.
•    Grants Pass, Ore., had a special ordinance making it legal to throw onions at obnoxious salesmen if they don’t stop knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell.
•    Lexington, Ky., citizens could be arrested for carrying raw onions in their pockets.
•    The town fathers of Bourbon, Miss., required that all restaurants serve one small onion with each glass of water.
•    Ministers in Burdonville, Vt., hold the legal right to make any churchgoer who eats onions during the service stand in the corner.

Onion love
•    No married woman in White Horse, N.M., was allowed to eat onions on the Sabbath unless she is properly looked after by her mate, who must follow 20 paces behind her with a loaded musket over his left shoulder.
•    In Headland, Ala., it's against the law for a man to put his arms around or kiss a woman if he has eaten onions within the past four hours.
•    Stay away from Nacogdoches, Texas, if you plan on taking a date out for hamburgers with onions. There's a strict onion curfew for "young women." Under no circumstances are they allowed to have raw onions after 6 p.m.

Gender discrimination
•    Any woman over 200 pounds who wears shorts in Ridgeland, S.C., could be arrested for eating onions in a restaurant or at a public picnic.
•    In Blue Hill, Neb., no female wearing a hat that would scare a timid person could be seen eating onions in public.
•    In Hackberry, Ariz., women were prohibited from eating raw onions on the Sabbath while drinking buttermilk.

If it’s edible and unusual, Doreen Howard figures out a way to grow it in her USDA Zone 4b garden. She’ll try anything once, even smelly Durian. A former garden editor at Woman’s Day, she writes regularly for The American Gardener and The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s Garden Guide.

Editor’s note: Look for more blog posts by The Edible Explorer, Doreen Howard, at our blog archive. For more Monitor gardening, see our main gardening page and our RSS feed.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our next contest.

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