The Onion reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Onion

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For the parody newspaper, see The Onion. For the computer networking technique, see Onion Routing.

Onion
Onions
Scientific Classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Liliopsida
Order:Liliales
Family:Liliaceae
Genus:Allium
Species:cepa
Binomial name
Allium cepa L.
Onion in the general sense can be used for any plant in the genus Allium but used without qualifiers usually means Allium cepa, also called the garden onion. Onions (usually but not exclusively the bulbs) are edible with a distinctive strong flavour and pungent odour which is mellowed by cooking. They generally have a papery outer skin over a fleshy, layered inner core. Used worldwide for culinary purposes, they come in a wide variety of forms and colors.

Onions may be grown from seed or very commonly from "sets". Onion sets are produced by sowing seed very thickly one year, resulting in stunted plants which produce very small bulbs. These bulbs are very easy to set out and grow into mature bulbs the following year, but they have the reputation of producing a less durable bulb than onions grown directly from seed and thinned.

Either planting method may be used to produce spring onions or green onions, which are just onions harvested while immature, although "green onion" is also a common name for the welsh onion, Allium fistulosum which never produces dry bulbs.

Onions are frequently used in school science laboratories because they have particularly large cells which are easily visible through an optical microscope. See how to prepare an onion cell slide for details.


Related species

The genus Allium is a large one, and most of the species are considered to be "onions" in the looser sense. Commonly raised vegetable alliums include the leeks, garlic, elephant garlic, chives, shallots, welsh onions and garlic chives. There are also species such as Allium moly which are grown for ornament.

Several species of wild onion, including A. canadense and A. diabolense, can be collected in the wild and their leaves and bulbs used as food.

image:allium_cepa.jpg
allium cepa