Now we know...


The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE -

“It is hard to imag­ine a civil­i­sa­tion with­out onions,” the home- cook hero Ju­lia Childs is re­ported to have said. From a mire­poix to a sof­fritto, from stocks to stews, onions are the build­ing blocks of savoury flavour foun­da­tions.

Af­ter a hard day at the of­fice, the sweet smell of an onion be­ing sautéed in a pan can pro­vide stress re­lief al­most on a par with a lov­ing hug from an old friend. But our tear ducts of­ten pay the price on the road to un­leash­ing the com­fort­ingly fa­mil­iar smell and flavour of a cooked onion. Why is it that onions make us cry? And is there any­thing we can do about it?

Well, it turns out that onions con­tain a chem­i­cal ir­ri­tant called syn- propanethial- S- ox­ide.

In his 2010 book Gar­lic and Other Al­li­ums: The Lore and the Science, chemist Eric Block shares his in­sights on the onion.

“See, the onion is a peren­nial bulb that lives in the ground with lots of crit­ters who are look­ing for a snack,” he says. “So it has evolved a chem­i­cal de­fence sys­tem.”

When we cut into an onion, we re­lease en­zymes which mix with other chem­i­cals in­side the onion cells.

This cre­ates a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion

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