The onion is one of the most essential and versatile vegetables used in cuisine. Native to central Asia, onions have been cultivated for over 7,000 years, making them one of the oldest known foods. References to onions can be found in ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian texts, indicating their long history as a dietary staple.

Onions were likely brought to Britain by the Romans. By the Middle Ages, they were widely grown across the country. The onion features heavily in British cuisine today, adding flavour and depth to many savoury dishes. When cooked, onions develop a sweet, mellow flavour as their natural sugars are released. Raw, they have a sharper, more pungent taste due to the sulphur compounds they contain.

Red, white and brown onions are the most commonly used varieties in the UK. Shallots, spring onions and leeks are also members of the onion family. Their characteristic flavours come from organic sulphur compounds, which also provide some health benefits. Onions contain vitamin C, folate, fibre and phytochemicals that may help reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol. However, they can cause eye irritation when cut due to the volatile compounds they release.

Overall, the onion is prized in cookery for the touch of sweetness and savouriness it adds to soups, stews, pastries, curries and many other foods. Sautéd, caramelised, roasted or eaten raw, the onion's versatility and long keeping qualities have made it an essential ingredient in cuisine across the UK. Their long history and integration into so many traditional dishes attests to the enduring popularity of the humble onion.

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Per 100 g Daily Value
Calories 45 2%
Total fat 0.2 g 0.2%
Saturated fat 0 0%
Protein 1 g 2%
Sodium 3 mg 0.1%
Potassium 35 mg 1%
Cholesterol 0 0%
Carbohydrates 10 g 3%
Fibre 1 g 5%
Sugar 5 g 15%

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