Onions

Onions are a type of vegetable that are really a member of the bulb family. That is because the part of the onion that is most important is the bulb (ball) that grows under the ground.

Onions are one of the oldest foods known to the human race. Onions are mentioned in the Bible as one of the foods the Israelites ate and history shows the ancient Egyptians. The Romans took onions to Europe when they made their way across the continent and the Pilgrims brought onions to the US when they came over on the Mayflower.

Onion basics

There are 27 different types of onions. All onions grow under the ground and have hollow green or bluish-green tubes that grow above the ground. Most people call these tubes the onion tops.

Onions are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They will grow in just about any type of soil as long as they get sunshine and the right amount of water, but they will grow best in soil that is loose and acidic (has a ph of 5.5 to 6.5). Onions like for the soil to be moist, but not too wet. If the soil is too wet, the onions will rot in the ground.
In most climates you can plant onions in the mid to late spring. Onions can be started from seeds, but most people start onions from ‘sets’, which are tiny little onions.


The different types of onions

Most onions are purple, yellow or white. All onions taste like onions, but some are sweeter than others. Different types of onions also grow differently. Let’s look at a few of the most common types of onions we use for cooking and eating.

  • Pearl onions are tiny white onions with a sweet, mild flavor. They are used to make pickled onions, relishes, soups and stews.
  • Bermuda onions are large onions with a mild flavor and thick skin.
  • Egyptian onions have a very strong flavor. Both the bulb and the top are eaten.
  • Green onions are small, mild-flavored onions. Green onions—both the bulbs and the tops—are used in salads, dips and eaten by themselves.
  • Vidalia onions are yellow and have a sweet, subtle taste. These are the most popular onions for pizza, onion rings, salads and soups.
  • Super-sweets are also used in the same way Vidalia onions are used. Just like their name, these onions are really and truly super-sweet. People eat them raw on sandwiches, in salads and for making salsa.
  • Shallots and Scallions are small, mild-tasting and used in stir-fry, salads, and for seasoning foods. They are a lot like garlic.


Fun onion facts

  • Onions really do make you cry. That’s because of the sulfuric acid in them. The acid isn’t dangerous to eat, but it sure does burn your eyes.
  • You can peel or cut an onion without crying if you cut the root end last and if the onion is cold or you cut it while holding the onion under cold running water.
  • Ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion
  • Over 450 semi-truck loads of onions are eaten every single day!
  • There is an old saying that says the thicker the onion’s skin the colder the winter will be.
  • Onions have been used for many years to help get rid of coughs and fevers by placing a layer of sliced, cooked onions on your chest and wrapping yourself in warm blankets.
  • The largest onion on record weighed over 10 pounds!
  • You can get rid of ‘onion breath’ by eating parsley.
  • Onions are low in calories, high in calcium and high in vitamin C.
  • Onions are 97% water!

Taste it

Try eating onions in something this week. How do you like them best?

Read more about Plant Facts for Kids