Onion is a term used by many plants in the genus Allium. They are known by the common name "onion" but, used without qualifiers, it usually refers to Allium cepa. Allium cepa is also known as the 'garden onion' or 'bulb' onion and 'shallot'.
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Onions, one of the oldest vegetables known to humankind, are found in a bewildering array of recipes and preparations, spanning almost the totality of the world's cultures; they are nowadays available in fresh, frozen, canned, pickled, and dehydrated forms. Onions can be used, usually chopped or sliced, in almost every type of food, including cooked foods and fresh salads, and as a spicy garnish; they are rarely eaten on their own but usually act as accompaniment to the main course. Depending on the variety, an onion can be sharp, spicy, tangy and pungent or mild and sweet.
Onions pickled in vinegar are eaten as a snack. These are often served as a side serving in fish and chip shops throughout the United Kingdom. Onions are a staple food in India, and are therefore fundamental to Indian cooking. They are commonly used as a base for curries, or made into a paste and eaten as a main course or as a side dish.
Tissue from onions is frequently used in science education to demonstrate microscope usage, because they have particularly large cells which are readily observed even at low magnifications.