A vegetable is the edible portion of a plant with a soft stem, while a fruit is the mature ovary of a plant with a wooden stem.
By definition, an onion is a vegetable because it represents one of the edible parts of a plant. A fruit has seeds, but an onion doesn’t have seeds therefore it’s a vegetable
There are lots of fruits that people consider vegetables and vice versa. This article will explain why we consider an onion a vegetable, how to tell vegetables and fruits apart, and so much more. So, keep on reading.
Is an Onion a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Plants either have soft or woody stems and when they mature, several parts become edible. You can eat the leaves, roots, tubers, stem, bulb, or even flower in plants with soft stems.
In plants with woody stems, the ovary forms a flower, which matures, keeping the seeds inside. When this happens, it leads to the creation of a fruit.
By this definition, some produce like tomatoes, peppers, and squash, which people mistakenly think are veggies, are actually fruits.
An onion is a bulb, a part of a plant that grows underground. This is an organ that stores food during dormancy, has a short stem and some fleshy leaves.
An onion or similar bulbs use fleshy leaves or scales to store nutrients that can help the plant survive when food is scarce. Some roots emerge from the underside of the bulb, while a new stem emerges from the top.
The bulb goes through several stages through the vegetative and reproductive growth cycle. Transitioning from one stage to another mainly depends on external factors like temperature change.
During the vegetative stage, the plant produces flowers for reproduction. When this period is over, the plant goes through the foliage stage, where it starts to grow leaves and absorb nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun.
This is why most bulbs are perennials, as they go through periods of growth, flowering, and then dormancy until they die back to ground level to prepare themselves to grow back again.
Why Do Some People Think That Onions are Fruits?
Some people think that onions are fruits because the bulbs can be planted to produce more onions. However, they don’t contain any seeds, so they’re not classified as fruits.
What Kind of Bulb is an Onion?
Bulbs or storage organs can be broken into five types; true bulbs, corms, tubers, tuberous roots, and rhizomes. Onions are clear examples of true bulbs.
These true bulbs have five parts, the bottom or basal plate, scales, tunic, shoot, and buds. These five parts appear when you cross-cut the onion.
The basal plate is where the roots grow from the bottom of the bulb. The second part is the fleshy scales, which act as the nutrient storage tissue, and the tunic protects them.
The tunic is a skin or paper-like covering that protects the scales but doesn’t grow in all true bulbs. The shoot is made of flowers and leaf buds, and the lateral buds can later develop into bulblets.
True bulbs are further divided into two subcategories, tunicate and non-tunicate, based on the structure of the bulb itself. A tunicate bulb is one that has a tunic to protect the fleshy scales.
A non-tunicate true bulb lacks this paper-like coating. Instead, the outer scales are succulent and separate, giving the bulb a scaly appearance.
Onions belong to the subcategory of tunicate bulbs. Garlic and narcissus also belong to this family, while lily belongs to the non-tunicate bulb subcategory.
What is the Difference Between Onions, Leeks, and Shallots?
Onions are more than just flavor enhancers because they’re actual vegetables that are packed with healthy nutrients.
They can be used to enhance the taste of several dishes like beef, chicken, risotto, and pasta and can be used to prepare several dishes on their own, like onion soup.
Some people get confused about the differences between onions, leeks, and shallots, as they can be used interchangeably in several recipes. However, these three vegetables have different flavors that set them apart, although they all belong to the onion family.
The bulb of the onion can be eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable in many recipes. The red onion or the common onion is the most common type of onion, although there are different varieties divided based on the amount of light the plant receives. Compared to shallots and leeks, onions bring the most heat to your recipes.
Short-day onions are the sweetest and can be eaten raw in salads or pickled. Long-day onions receive more light, and they have a stronger and more pungent flavor.
These onions can be eaten raw or cooked, and they can be stored for months. Day-neutral onions represent a combination of both.
You can store onions in a cool, dry place, where the temperature stays between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius and humidity levels are maintained between 60% and 70%. So, you can store them in the garage or basement and not the fridge.
Spring or green onions is a variety of onions, where the bulbs are underdeveloped, and the leaves are hollow. These leaves are edible and look very much like leeks, although they’re actually different. This variety is milder than red onions.
Leeks look like overgrown or big green onions with wide leaves. They have different varieties, depending on the time they were left in the field, and this means that you can find different short-season and long-season types.
Unlike shallots and onions, leeks have a mild flavor and pungency, almost tasking like green onions. This is why they work best for slow-cooking methods like soups and stews.
The whole leek isn’t used in cooking; the green leafy portion is cut and discarded, while the white portion is cooked after being sliced through the center.
If you want to store leeks, you should keep them at 0 degrees Celsius at almost 100% humidity, where they can be kept for about 2 or 3 months.
Shallots are usually reddish-brown or purple and have a firm texture. There are actually two varieties of shallots available, the French-Italian variety and the Louisiana Evergreen.
The French-Italian shallots have well-shaped bulbs and are mainly used for cooking. The Louisiana Evergreen variety works best for salads.
Shallots look more like garlic than onions when sliced, and a flavor that feels like a mix of both. However, they’re rather pungent with a sweet and mild flavor. So, they will work for you if you need an alternative that feels sweeter than onions but is more pungent.
They taste best when they’re lightly sautéed in butter but can be eaten fresh, as well as boiled, and cooked. To keep them fresh, you should store shallots at 0 degrees Celsius at 60% to 70% humidity to prevent them from sprouting. This means that keeping them in a cool dark place works best than keeping them in the fridge.
Although you can grow a new onion from a bulb, onions are considered vegetables and not fruits because they don’t contain seeds.
Bulbs are nutrient-storage organs that help the plant survive in harsh conditions, and there are several plants that belong to this family, like garlic, shallots, leeks, and lilies.