The history of the onion

With a volume of 1.3 million tonnes of cultivation and 1 million tonnes of exports, the onion is the largest product of the Dutch vegetable sector. The onion is eaten worldwide and everyone has something with onions. Onions are known for their strong taste and smell. Everyone knows that you will cry as soon as you are cutting an onion, but did you also know that onions originate from the Middle East? No? Time to dive into the history of the onion!


The origin of the onion

As mentioned above: onions originally come from the Middle East. In all likelihood, this consisted of the area from Iran to West Pakistan and a part of southern Russia. The onion was then spread further to the east and west.

In the Bible and Quran there are pieces that show that onions in ancient Egypt were already an important food. Around 1000 BC onions became known to the Greeks, via the island of Crete. About 400 years before Christ, the onion became known to the Romans. In the Netherlands the onion only came into the picture at a much later time. According to many, the bulbous plant arrived in our country around 1300.

Unclean food

Garlic crops were considered unclean food in India: prohibited for all who pursued a higher spiritual life. You can read in ancient scriptures that eating these crops is strictly forbidden. These plants were only allowed to be used to cure diseases. Plants with a strong odor have the reputation of being evil-resistant in popular belief. For example, onions were used by the Romans to chase away evil spirits.

The onion in Europe


Not many vegetables were eaten in the European Middle Ages. Only after 1300 were more of these products consumed in Europe. In the 15th century onions were exported to England and we see the bulb crop more often in old recipes. From the 18th century, the consumption of fruit and vegetables has increased, and only from the 19th century, we see the onion actually included in Dutch cookery books. However, often also as an optional spice with a dish.


Nowadays the onion is indispensable in our Dutch kitchen. Onions are true condiments, but can also be found as a basis for soup or on the barbecue. People nowadays also use the onion to combat all kinds of ailments. Want to know more about the "magic" applications of the onion? Then read on here.