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There is not much information available about the ancestors of onion species. Since there are ancient records of onion use in both western and eastern Asia, it is unclear where the onion originated. However, West or Central Asia is most likely where domestication took place. Onions have been attributed to Iran, western Pakistan, and Central Asia in a variety of ways.

Ancient Egyptians revered the onion bulb, viewing its spherical shape and concentric rings as symbols of eternal life. Traces of onions recovered from Bronze Age settlements in China suggest that onions were used as early as 5000 BC, not only for their flavor but also for the bulb’s durability during storage and transportation. As evidenced by onion traces found in Ramesses IV’s eye sockets, Egyptian burials utilized onions.

In his writings from the first century AD, Pliny the Elder described Pompeii’s use of cabbage and onions. He documented Roman beliefs regarding the onion’s capacity to treat eye conditions, improve sleep, and treat everything from toothaches and oral sores to dog bites, lumbago, and dysentery.

Long after the volcano that buried Pompeii in 79 AD was exhumed, archaeologists have discovered gardens that look like those in Pliny’s detailed narratives. Onions were used in numerous Roman dishes, according to texts compiled in the fifth or sixth century AD under the authorial direction of “Apicius,” who is reputed to have been a gourmet.