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    Setu Patok

Naming Identity

Bawang is scientifically known in Latin as Allium cepa. Internationally this plant is known as onion. Its popular name “onion”  likely comes from the Latin word for unus, which means “one.”

Shallots as one of the varieties of onion plants are scientifically named as Allium cepa var. aggregatum. Previously, the Latin name for shallots was Allium ascalonium, a name that refers to its popularity in the medieval city of Ascalon or Port of Ascalon in Palestine which is now known as the seaside city of the southern district of Ashkelon in Israel.

Its internationally popular name in English known as shallot comes from Old French eschalotte, via eschaloigne, from Latin Ascalōnia caepa or Ascalonian onion (Collins Dictionaries, 2023).

In Indonesia, shallots have many other names according to the regional language. Shallots in Sundanese are called beureum garlic, while in Javanese they are called brambang (Putrasamedja and Suwandi, 1996).















Allium cepa


Allium cepa var. aggregatum

Origin and History of Onions' Spreading

Most botanists and archaeologists agree that onions most likely originated in Central Asia approximately 5,000 years ago. Meanwhile, some botanists and archaeologists argue that onions first grew in Iran and the western region of Pakistan. However, it is almost certain that now onions are grown throughout the world in both tropical and subtropical countries, including Indonesia.

Onions are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. This plant was probably known in India, China, and the Middle East before recorded history (National Onion Association, 2019).

The history of onions begins at least from 320 to 2800 BC from a discovery in an ancient Egyptian tomb. Then onions spread to India around 600 BC and had spread to northern Europe by the early Middle Ages (Yamaguchi, 1983).

Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder mentioned the onion as one of the six types of onions known to the Greeks in the encyclopedia Naturalis Historia (Natural History) in 77 AD. The ancient Egyptians considered its spherical shape to be a symbol of the universe, and the concentric spheres of the cosmos Aristotle also at the same time likened it to an onion.

Its consumption by humans can be traced back to the Bronze Age, when onions were a staple food in many early civilizations, and were especially important in ancient Egypt. Apart from being consumed as food, Egyptians also revered onions because they thought their concentric rings symbolized eternal life. Onions are also said to be often buried with the dead.

Ancient Greek athletes consumed it in large quantities thinking it would "balance" their blood and improve their athletic prowess. Later, after conquering Greece, the Romans also ate onions regularly and rubbed them on gladiators to tone their muscles (Division of Plant Sciences, 2011).

The Romans are also said to be the people who introduced onions to Britain and the New World region. In 1554, shallots were grown in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. Baldassare Pisanelli in the 17th century, a physician in Italy, described shallots as “a delicacy that stimulates the appetite when hot and is delicious to drink.” Onion cultivation spread to England from France in 1663, and shallots became a common crop in America in 1806 (American Botanical Council, 2023). Meanwhile, in Sweden, this plant only began to spread around 1830 and 1860 with medieval laws recommending that onions be part of the daily diet in Sweden since at least the fourteenth century (De Vahl, 2023).

Shape Description and Growth

Onions are annual plants with fibrous roots that have a shallow root system and spreading branches. The roots can grow to a depth of 30 cm from the ground surface with branches that spread radially up to about 30 cm from the stem.

This plant has a true stem called a "discus" which is shaped like a disc, thin and short as a place for the roots and shoots (growing points) to attach. The leaves are small, elongated cylindrical leaves with a length that can reach up to 70 cm.

The flowers are arranged in a circle at the end of the flower stalk which comes out from the growing point of the plant. The flower stalks can grow up to 30 to 90 cm long.

The fruit is dry and round with a blunt tip and contains seeds that can produce up to 2 to 3 seeds per fruit. The seeds can be used as seed material to reproduce plants generatively (Admin, "Shallots (Allium Cepa L.) – CCRC", 2010).

Commercialization of Shallots

China is the largest onion-producing country with an income of less than 860 thousand tons per year. The second and third positions are filled by Mali which manages to produce approximately 680 thousand tons of onions per year and Japan with an income of approximately 512 thousand tons per year.

In Indonesia itself, onions are widely cultivated in almost all regions of the country, reaching 24 out of 30 provinces. The main producing provinces of shallots include North Sumatra, West Sumatara, West Java, Central Java, DIY, East Java, Bali, NTB, and South Sulawesi (Admin, "Shallots (Allium Cepa L.) – CCRC", 2010) .

Ingredients and Other Benefits of Shallots for Health

Shallots are known to contain several chemical compounds that have health benefits. These include protein, minerals, sulfur, anthocyanins, carbohydrates, fiber, flavonoids, quercetin and antioxidants.

Traditionally, red onions are believed to cure fever, diabetes, and coughs. Meanwhile, its strong quercetin and antioxidant content can act as an agent to inhibit cancer cells. Onions, which are rich in flavonoids, can help deactivate many potential carcinogens and tumor triggers, such as inhibiting the growth of estrogen-sensitive cells in breast cancer (Admin, "Shallots (Allium Cepa L.) – CCRC", 2010).

Onions in Culinary Culture

In various culinary cultures in the world, onions are widely used as a spice or ingredient in various dishes. Onions can be used both fresh in salads and after being processed through pickling, frying, and so on.

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