Don't Cry, It's Just An Onion!

The onion. Not usually a go-to vegetable for kids. But bear with us, here. They are pretty cool. 

Onions are edible bulbs and come in a variety of colors, namely white, yellow, red, purple and green. They come in a variety of forms - this article claims 33 - and provide a lot of flavor without a lot of caloric intake. 

The onion's original location is a little murky though there are records as far back as 5000 BCE China that mention onions. They are also in the book of Numbers in the Bible, when the Hebrews were reminiscing about eating onions in Egypt. While the Pilgrims introduced bulb onions to the North American continent, the American Indians already settled there were eating wild onion. So, this veg clearly have a track record! 

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So why do onions make us cry when we cut into them? When onion layers are broken and cells are ruptured, a gas is released as a defense mechanism that stings our eyes to the point that our lacrimal glands make tears to flush out the irritant. Listen to an awesome kid-focused podcast from Wow In The World about this chemical reaction and how it works at the cellular level!

ACTIVITIES

EAT THEM!

Yes, we're going with the obvious first. Onions come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and forms, there is definitely a way to get them into your meals. If it is helpful, show your kids all the forms they can take. They can be eaten raw in the form of rings, chopped, minced or in slices. They can be sautéed, caramelized or fried. There is also onion flakes and onion powder to think about too...imagine showing your kids all the ways onions can be used in cooking could be a real eye-opener. Check out these healthy onion recipes from eatingwell.com and see what will work for your family!  

DYE WITH THEM!

Did you know that you can use onion skins to create an all-natural dye?! It's pretty awesome and a technique that has been used just about since onions have been around. Now that you'll be eating more onions, make sure to save the skins! You'll need a lot to make your dye. While TheSpruce.com has this quick and easy recipe to make a dye for yarn, there are other tutorials out there to dye other items like clothes and even your hair. We'll let you decide what's best for your family to try! Happy dyeing!

EXPLORE CELL STRUCTURE!

Onion skin is often a go-to material in science class because their cell structure is so big! It is a fun and easy way to begin a conversation about life at the cellular level with little kids. SciFiles has a great video on how to set-up your own microscopic exploration of onion cells as well as some awesome shots of onion skin under the scope and a quick tutorial on cell anatomy! And it's only 3 minutes!