The WALA Plant Library

Synonyms for Onion: Garden onion, common onion, shallot
Scientific Name: Allium cepa L.
Family: Alliaceae (Onion family)


Onions are so ubiquitous in our cooking that we often forget this is a vegetable with the potential to grow and bloom. Few people are probably aware that it is also a medicinal plant. The garden onion with its dry outer skin, originally brown but with cultivated species sometimes white or red, can be found in any household where it is sometimes overlooked long enough to produce green shoots. We savour these shoots as the tube-like leaves of spring onions. From June to August of the second year after planting, onions will produce a spherical flower head consisting of numerous tiny greenish-white flowers. These flower heads balance on stalks which may reach a height of 50 to 120 cm. The many layers of the onion are in fact leaves which have been transformed into storage organs. Only the bottommost part of the bulb, the round base from which the roots grow, is still a piece of the stalk. When the onion sprouts the tips of the layers grow and change their form above ground.