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Many people think of onions as the vegetable that makes you cry. That's not quite true. They only make your eyes tear up. They don't make you go "boo-hoo-hoo," unless, of course, you're a real baby.

But there's much more to learn about onions than just that. Onions are one of the most complex, mysterious, and sometimes even magical, vegetables there is.

2 different taste experiences

For example, onions present us with two completely different taste experiences, depending on how we eat them. Onions' raw taste is sharp, biting, and pungent. Their cooked taste is completely different. It's succulent and sweet. (It's because of the chemistry, which we'll get into later.) The important point is that a lot of people, if not most, really like both of these two very different tastes.

A symbol of complexity

For a lot of people, the onion is also a favorite symbol of complexity. That's because, like onions, complex problems often come composed of many layers. Have you ever heard someone remark that working through a difficult problem is "like peeling the layers of an onion?" It's a common expression.

If you don't peel back all of a problem's layers and deal with the issues at its core, whatever solutions you might come up with are likely only to be temporary fixes. They are not likely to last. The image of an onion helps us get to this truth in a straightforward way. That's why it's so popular as a metaphor.