Onions are delicious, full of health benefits, and used often in culinary creations. However, when it’s time to cut it, we have to suffer the consequences: Burning feeling, itchy eyes followed by waterfalls of tears. Thus, why do we cry when we cut onions?
We all have experienced that uncomfortable situation when cutting onions. However, only few people know the scientific explanation behind it.
What Is The Tear Factor in Onions?
When we cut onions, we unleash a chain of chemical reactions, according to Dr. Eric Block. The molecules of the onion’s tissues break to form a volatile, sulfuric gas.
This gas once reaches the eye, transforms into small bits of sulfuric acid. The latter is the main cause of that itchy sensation we get, and which leads to tears.
The Chemical Explanation Behind It
What the tear factor mean scientifically, is that enzymes within us control the situation. Furthermore, Dr. Block explains that ”Enzymes are amazing molecules.” Their main job is to fasten chemical reactions, to stabilize the molecules found in the onion, with the ones in our eyes. It’s referred to as the alliinase enzyme.
Japanese researchers have tried to play around with it in order to create onions that don’t cause you to cry. However, even though they tried keeping alliinase from triggering the reaction that led to sulfuric acid, it didn’t work.
How to Prevent Crying When Cutting Onions?
There is no absolute method that is confirmed to be efficient. Yet, there are some possible ways to make us cry less when we cut onions.
Leaving the onion in the freezer for about 15 minutes before using them. This helps reduce the amount of alliinase in the air, and therefore it has less chances to reach the eye. You can also try to chew gum while cutting onions, because it forces you to breath from your mouth. This leads to producing saliva which absorbs the vapor emitted by the onion.
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