Botanical Name: Allium cepa

Family: Liliaceae

Hindi Name: Piyaz

Onion seems to originate from west or central Asia. In India this crop is cultivated in Maharashtra and Gujarat. The other important onion-growing states are Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. China, is the largest producer of onion in the world, followed by India. Onion is grown in the United States, Russia, the Netherlands, Japan, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, East Africa, and South America. In Europe, it is known since the Bronze Ages.

It is mentioned along with garlic in the oldest part of the Bible, the Pentateuch, and the Garuda Purana.

In fresh state, onion is spicy, pungent and lachrymatory. The onion is a biennial herb, usually grown as an annual. It has a superficial root system, a very short and flattened stem at the base, which increases in diameter as it grows. The leaves are long, linear and hollow.

As the plant reaches maturity, a bulb is formed by the thickening of the leaf base. Superterrnean green leaves display the same aroma as the bulb, but are slightly less intensive. In their culinary usage, these leaves equal chives.

The composition of onion is as follows:

  • Moisture: 86.8 %
  • Protein: 1.2 %
  • Fat: 0.1 %
  • Carbohydrates: 11.6 %
  • Calcium: 0.18 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.005 %
  • Iron: 0.7 mg/100g

Fresh onions contain traces of essential oil, which mostly consists of sulphur compounds. The essential oil has an acrid taste and an unpleasant odour.

Onion is an indispensable ingredient in nearly every cuisine of the world, and is used for a large variety of dishes. In India, onion is the basis of most sauces and gravies. In the Mughali cuisine, gravies use onions lavishly.

In Myanmar, the meat cubes or vegetables in curries are braised in a rich, spicy gravy, giving these curries a unique taste not easily found in the cuisines of other countries. By frying, onion changes its taste and turns sweeter and more aromatic.

Fried onion rings are popular in central Europe as a garnish, as in the German mashed potatoes. In Indonesia and Vietnam, onion rings are used for topping their fried rice called nasi goring. When onions are dried, they change their flavour and become more garlic like. Onion powder is commonly used in the US and Mexico.

Onion pastes are also used in many countries, but are best used fresh. Indonesia uses a great variety of onion-based spice pastes. The Jamaican jerk also contains onion paste which is mostly used to marinate meat or fish. Pearl onions, or small onions, are used in pickles, including vinegar pickles. Onions are also used in the form of dehydrated onions, onion flakes, kibbled onions and onion salt for flavouring ketchups sauces, chutneys, etc.

Although used extensively in cookery, onions also medicinal uses, and have great therapeutic value. They have diuretic properties that help the bronchial tubes to be cleared of catarrha matter and phlegm. It has been used for centuries as a herb in the cure of colds and coughs, bronchitis and influenza.

Consuming 100 gms of onion every day is proved to prevent a heart attack, and keeps the blood pressure under Control. It is used in the cure of cholera, piles, urinary disorders, piles, toothache and ear disorders.

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