What is an Onion?


Anyone who cooks – or eats – would know what an onion is.  The food doesn’t have to be gourmet to have onions.  In fact, even the simplest of dish has it.  That’s how “everyday” an onion is in all parts of the world.

But what really is an onion?  Is it a spice or a vegetable?  Is there just one kind or does it have many varieties?

Onions are part of the lily family that add, enhance, and create flavor.  It is actually a vegetable, that also acts as a spice because of how strongly aromatic it is without really being a major ingredient.

Onion comes from the Latin word, ‘unio’ which means one because onion plants produce just a single bulb each.  It also describes the union of the different layers of this vegetable.

So strong in taste and smell it could literally bring tears to your eyes, the onion, like garlic, is considered one of the cornerstones of the culinary world.  The compound that burns the eye is called allyl sulfate, a phyto-nutrient that is released by the onion when its ruptured cells are exposed.

To avoid this, you can use a very sharp knife to slice the onions or chill them for a few hours first before slicing them.  The compound that brings tears to your eyes is in reality the same compound that makes onions very nutritious.