The onion (Allium cepa L.) also known as the bulb onion or
common onion, is a vegetable usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a
prepared savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or
chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain chemical substances
which irritate the eyes.
The onion is most frequently a biennial or a perennial
plant, but is usually treated as an annual and harvested in its first growing
season. The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves and the bulb
at the base of the plant begins to swell when a certain day-length is reached.
In the autumn the foliage dies down and the outer layers of the bulb become dry
The pungent juice of onions has been used as a moth repellent
and can be rubbed on the skin to prevent insect bites. When applied to the
scalp it is said to promote growth of hair and on the face to reduce freckling.
It has been used to polish glass and copperware and to prevent rust on iron. If
boiling water is poured onto chopped onions and left to cool, the resulting
liquid can be sprayed onto plants to increase their resistance to pests, and
the onion plants when growing are reputed to keep away moles and insects. Onion
skins have been used to produce a yellow-brown dye.