No onion, no cry. Well, sort of. Word is researchers at House Foods Group Inc. have created a tearless onion that has a less pungent smell and taste. (Cutting onions without sobbing? Say it isn’t so!) By using ionizing radiation, they were able to weaken the enzymes that cause us to get all weepy.
Researchers also found the onions don’t leave a strong smell on the cook’s hands, nor do they sic nasty breath on those who eat them.
According to The Wall Street Journal:
While onions with reduced pungency have been made before, a company spokesman said it was the first to tackle the root of the problem by using heavy ion beam irradiation to create onions with weaker alliinase enzymes, which play a key role in producing the compounds that make one tear up.
But as tearful as cutting onions can be, it’s a quality that’s important for the plant’s survival in the real world. In an interview with NPR, chemist Eric Block explains:
They are often compounds that will repel insects or animals that try to bite into it. So everything is, I believe, very Darwinian from the standpoint of the chemistry of plants, a very large number of compounds that we view as either being pleasant smelling or unpleasant smelling.
They’re not there for our pleasure. They’re there to allow the plant to survive in a very hardscrabble world, a world where there are lots of worms in the ground and animals that would devour something that exists as a bulb and has to survive in the ground.
Is this something we really want to mess with just to avoid shedding a few tears? Probably not… until it comes time to chop another onion. You’ll have to grab your tissues in the meantime though, since the company currently has no plans to produce the onions commercially.
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Image of chopping an onion via Shuttershock