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Onion, also known as bulb onion, is a vegetable of the cold season. It is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. Onion, like garlic, is rich in sulfur-containing compounds. The onion, named as Allium cepa according to scientific nomenclature, appears as a brown, white or red bulb with paper-thin skin. It has a repugnant smell and is irritating for the eyes. Moreover, it has a strong flavor and is a popular part of almost every cuisine all around the globe. The pungent nature of onions is owing to a volatile compound called allyl-propyl disulphide.

Onion History. The word onion has been derived from the Latin word unio, meaning "single," or "one", implying that the onion plant produces a single bulb. Cultivation of onions originated in Asia and the Middle East over five thousand years ago.

Onion Varieties. Onions have different varieties based on their size, strength and color. The most common type of onion is the yellow onion, possessing an intense taste and greenish-white color. Red onions, on the other hand are shiny and purplish with a tinge of red color. They have a mild taste, as compared to the yellow onion. Other varieties of onions include shallots - sub-species of onion and spring onions; onions still in their maturing phase, pulled out before the complete formation of the bulb.

Onion Uses. The onion family has been used as a source of food since a very long time in the history of mankind. They are used to enhance the flavor of bland food, transforming a simple dish into a sumptuous meal. They may be eaten raw, broiled, boiled, baked, creamed, steamed, fried, or pickled. A type of onion, known as the green onion, is considered to be a great source of vitamin A.

Onions also have a role to play in schools for scientific experiments due to their considerably large cells, observed easily under a low magnification. Therefore, onion tissue is often used in science education, to be viewed under a microscope, demonstrating its usage.

Onion Health Benefits. Onion is one of the vegetables that provide numerous health benefits to humans. Onions can be used as anti-clogging agents for the blood vessels, preventing the formation of blood clots. Onions also play a significant role in women’s health, as they help maintain the bone density, especially for women going through menopause. According to the National Cancer Institute, onions contain antioxidants, helping in cancer prevention.
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