Tear-free onions may sounds like the product of chef’s science fiction culinary fantasies, but Japanese scientists have brought the world one step closer to cutting out the tears when it comes to prepping one of the most basic ingredients of cooking.
The idea of an onion that doesn’t cause its chopper to look like they’re going through a tragic event isn’t new in itself, but this particular study claims to be the first to find a way to eliminate the direct cause of the vegetable tugging at our tear ducts. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company employed a “heavy ion beam irradiation” that reulted in tear-free onions with “weaker alliinase enzymes.”
House Foods, the company responsible for the new finding, reported a drop in pungency overall from the process. In addition to not causing eyes to cloud up during prep, the altered onion also doesn’t leave its smell lingering on hands and, more importantly, on breath after consumption.
In the quest for a tear-free onion, House was given a push toward further development when it was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in 2013 for some its initial discoveries on the topic. Not to be confused with the Nobel Prize, this award is given out to scientific research that might be derided as “trivial” in the overall scheme of things — even if some winners do end up having an unforeseen impact, noted an editorial in The National.
Although House said it will not be selling anything related to its tear-free onion discovery soon, that doesn’t mean there aren’t businesses who might be interested in what the successful experiment could yield at a consumer level. Just last month, Walmart-owned UK supermarket chain ASDA began selling a red onion variety with many of the same benefits provided by the Japanese study, reported Food Investigator.
That might not necessarily mean that all of our onions will be tear free in the immediate future. In 2008, a similar study was discussed in The Telegraph where New Zealand Crop & Food Research scientist Dr. Colin Eady estimated that the product would become common within a decade. In the same article, fellow onion-innovator Dr Meriel Jones of Liverpool University also remarked on the positive influence that tear-free onions could have.
“This is a great development. It shows how genetic engineering can lead to real benefits for both cookery and health. Although conventional growing has identified some sweet, mild onions, this discovery will eventually give farmers new varieties and consumers more choice.”
Would you pay more for tear-free onions?
[Image via dollen, Flickr]