Of all the vegetables, herbs and spices that are used to season food and heal the body, the unassuming onion is rarely given its proper due. For a plant that serves so many needs and desires in our kitchens, gardens and herbal pantries, the savory spicy-sweet goodness of onions in all their forms should be elevated.
Onions and all of their onion-like relatives have long been classified as belonging to the Lilly (Lilliaceae) family, but in 2009 botanists began using a scientific system known as phylogenetics to reorganize many plant families based on genetic testing.
The entire Allium genus was reclassified as being a part of the Amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae) family of plants, which includes the lovely and highly regarded flowering perennials of the same name. Even so, botanists are still studying and debating the order of the genera Allium, which contains 15 subgenera and nearly 1,000 species!
Obviously, the most well-known onion is the common bulb onion, known to us botanical nuts as Allium cepa. Botanically speaking, cepa onions are all the same. The only comparable differences are in their shapes, colors and sizes, the day-length needed to grow them and their flavor and storability. In general, cepa onions are most often categorized as “cooking,” “sweet” or “storage” types. Continue Reading →