You can always count on onions to add a savory, fragrant flavor to any dish, from salads to soups, to stir-fries. With all the different varieties lining the produce aisle and their varying pungency levels, they can truly enhance anything. It is no wonder onions are a universal ingredient, appearing in cuisines throughout the world.
But with their powerful flavoring properties, it may be tricky to determine whether they classify as herbs or vegetables. After all, the purpose of an herb in a recipe is to provide flavor. There are many myths about onions, but one thing that's for sure is that onions are vegetables. However, if you identify foods based on their role in a recipe, you can technically call an allium an herb or spice. No matter how you frame it, they are sure to provide the taste and nutritional benefits that each category is known to offer.
Breaking Down The Vegetable Verbiage
Onions, by definition, are not an herb but rather a vegetable. Herbs are the leafy green parts of plants like basil, oregano, and rosemary. Spices are any aromatic seeds, roots, or flowers that are dried up like cinnamon and paprika. Since they are edible plant foods, they are classified as vegetables. All herbs and spices are vegetables, but not all vegetables are herbs and spices.
Onions are flavorful and they can even be ground up into a flavoring powder. They are members of the allium family, which also includes garlic, leeks, and chives — basically, all the produce that can make you cry. Like the rest of the allium family, they are often used as a seasoning in cooking. In addition, some varieties, such as scallions or green onions, are used like herbs to embellish the dishes with a fresh flavor. So, while onions are not technically a spice or an herb, they are versatile ingredients that can be used in various ways to enhance the flavor of many dishes.
The Magical Properties Of Onions
The overlap between onions and herbs includes more than flavoring properties. Both plant foods are packed with micronutrients, giving any meal an easy nutritional boost. According to Healthline, onions are an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin B6, folate, and the mineral potassium which may improve cellular function. They also offer antioxidants, which can help regulate inflammation and prevent cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. With their bountiful health benefits and the ease with which you can make them a staple in your diet, these alliums almost seem too good to be true.
Ultimately, this culinary star always pulls its weight flavor-wise, whether you make it the main ingredient in a soup, creamy dip, a supporting ingredient in a meatloaf, or atop an everything bagel. Though it can be confusing sometimes to categorize an onion, one certainty is that this nutrient-dense vegetable always shines in a meal.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.