Onions are a staple for most kitchens, regardless of commercial or domestic use, they are used in a heap of dishes and a variety of cultures, but where do they originate from? This blog by our experts at Peeled Onion will delve into the beginnings of onions and how they have become one of the most common vegetables throughout the ages.


Fun Facts About Onions

  • Our word “onion” comes from the Latin “unio” meaning one or unity because an onion grows as a single bulb.
  • In ancient Egypt, the onion was a symbol of eternity because it is a circle‐within‐a‐circle. The Pharaoh Cheops paid workers who built the Great Pyramid in onions, garlic, and parsley. Onions were painted on the walls of the pyramids. Mummies were even buried with onions.
  • According to an old English Rhyme, the thickness of an onion skin can help predict the severity of the winter. Thin skins mean a mild winter is coming while thick skins indicate a rough winter ahead.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest onion ever grown, weighed 10 pounds 14 ounces. It was grown by V. Throup of Silsden, England.
  • Onions are a popular vegetable. Worldwide we grow about 50 million tons of onions a year! The average person eats about 13.7 pounds of onions a year. This really varies, for example in North America we eat about 18.6 pounds each per year, while in Libya, the average person eats 66.8 pounds of onions in a year!

The Chemistry Of Onions – Why The Tears?

Onions absorb sulfur from the soil, which helps form a class of volatile organic molecules called amino acid sulfoxides; they form sulfenic acids. When you cut an onion, you break cells, releasing their contents.

Enzymes that were kept separate now are free to mix with the sulfenic acids to produce propanediol S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound that wafts upward toward your eyes. This gas reacts with the water in your tears to form sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid burns, stimulating your eyes to release more tears to wash the irritant away. Cooking the onion inactivates the enzyme, so while the smell of cooked onions may be strong, it doesn’t burn your eyes.

The Onion Experts

At Peeled Onion, we’ve had plenty of experience with tearing up and frankly, we are definitely used to it by now. We offer a range of onion delivery solutions, including already peeled onions, ready to use without the strain (on the eyes). Contact our team today to find out more about our bulk options.