The common onion, to cry and do yourself good

Who makes us cry first, and then do us a lot of good? The onion, of course! Very present in our kitchen in all seasons, it perfumes our recipes and takes care of our health.

The common onion, to cry and do yourself good
The common onion, to cry and do yourself good

Common onion identity card

The common onion (Allium cepa var. Cepa) is a biennial aromatic bulbous plant, belonging to the Alliaceae family, as garlic Where the leek. In reality, it is a sub-species onion, in the same way as:

The common onion appears to be native to Southwest Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran), where it has been cultivated for millennia. Arrived in France in the Middle Ages, it is nowadays present in all countries of the world.

The different varieties of common onions

There are many varieties of onions that are characterized by a specific color, size, flavor or shelf life.

  • Yellow onions: they are strong tasting onions. Harvested ripe in August and sold dry, they are found all year round although the peak season is between September and April.
    Examples of varieties: ‘Savoy yellow‘ , ‘Mulhouse golden yellow‘, ‘Straw yellow of Virtues‘, ‘De Stuttgart‘…

  • Red onions: with a milder and sweeter flavor than yellow onions, they are also onions for keeping harvested when ripe, but which keep a little shorter than yellow onions. They are available from June to March. Examples: ‘Red Baron‘, ‘Brunswick Red‘, ‘Rosé from Roscoff‘, ‘Flat red from Italy‘, …

  • White onions: these are onions most often cultivated in early crops, ie harvested before maturity, and sold with their leaves still green. They are consumed fresh and do not keep for long. The flavor is mild and slightly sweet. Available in the spring. Examples of varieties: ‘Early White of Paris‘, ‘Very hasty from Vaugirard’, ‘Snowball‘…

  • Onions (pearl type): It’s about a variety white onions forming a small round bulb that is eaten fresh, or that we put in vinegar. Harvested before maturity, they are available in July.

How to choose onions?

The onions should be firm. The onions for keeping must also be very dry and, for a long shelf life, free from stains or signs of rot.

How to store onions?

Dry onions : store them in a dry and dark place at room temperature (20 ° C). This can be done in the cellar, but far from the potatoes because their proximity decreases the storage time. Kept in good conditions, they can keep for up to 6 months. Once started, place them in a cool place in the refrigerator.

Early onions : 1 week in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.

The nutritional qualities of onions *

Onions are rich in flavonoids (including quercetin at fort antioxidant potential), in different proportions depending on the color. The more the onion is colored, the more it contains: 135.71 mg per 100g of red onions and 61.9 mg per 100g of yellow onions. White onion, on the other hand, contains 11 times less than yellow onion, and does not contain any amount of quercetin.

He is also one of the best sources of selenium (also with antioxidant property), rich in sulfur compounds (including allicin, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic) and potassium (anti-cramps and muscle fatigue), and also contains, in small amounts, vitamins B9, B6, B1 and C.

The health benefits of onion are therefore numerous: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and venotonic, it has beneficial and protective effects against cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, certain cancers and aging of the skin.

How to cook onions?

Yellow onions are more digestible (less rich in sulfur compounds) and have a milder flavor when cooked (in a tomato pissaladière , a split pea soup with bacon …). They also support long cooking very well. However, to make the most of its antioxidant properties, prefer sautéing or baking to boiling.

Red onions are preferably eaten raw, because cooking makes them bland (for example in salads: Lentil and zucchini salad with walnut oil ), as well as the early onion. This is good: it is especially when the onion is raw that we get the most out of its vitamins, the action of allicin (which increases the fluidity of the blood) and its impact on bad cholesterol.

Trick : T o enjoy early onions longer, store them in vinegar (Recipe des Pickled onions ).

How to peel the onion without crying?

If we cry while chopping an onion, it’s the sulfur compounds fault it contains (including allicin). Responsible for its odor, they also release a gas when cut, which, on contact with the eyes, turns into irritating sulfuric acid.

These compounds are volatile and mainly concentrated in the center of the onion. Also, to avoid crying, it is advisable to remove the heart and cut it under a filet of water. This second tip is however not very practical in practice and will tend to remove some of the allicin.

Ready to grow onions?

Growing your own onions is not that complicated. To find out how, it’s here: Onion .

The common onion, to cry and do yourself good
Infographic – The common onion, to cry and do yourself good

* Sources: ANSES 2020 (Table of nutritional composition of Ciqual foods) /

** VNR: nutritional reference value, formerly called Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

Source: Au Jardin, conseils en jardinage by

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