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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Onion? (Why do we tear & how to cut it without tearing?)

What is Onion?

Onion is a member of the lily family. Onions come in a variety of colors: white, red/purple and yellow. The stronger the color, the stronger the flavour. Flavors range from sweet to tangy, spicy to pungent and mild to strong.

                                                                        Pictures of Onions

Why does Onion cause Tearing?

As onions are sliced or eaten, cells are broken. This allows enzymes ('Alliinase') to break down the acids inside (amino acid sulphoxides). The broken down acid interacts with the onion oil that contains sulfur. This generates another type of acid (sulphenic acids). 

This second type of acid combines with another type of enzyme (LFS) in the onion to form a volatile gas.

When this volatile gas reaches our eyes, it activates the sensory neurons. OUr tear glands then produce tears to dilute and wash away the irritant (the gas that causes our eyes to tear).

The water in the tears actually turns the gas into sulfuric acid. As more tears are produced, the effect is reduced.

Thus it is only a matter of seconds before the gas released from the onion (when we cut it) causes our eyes to tear. (Nope, it is not the strong odor.)

How to choose Onions?

Onions are sold in pre-packed bags or by the weight.

You should look for dry onions that feels solid. There should be no soft spots or sprouts. The onion skin should feel like paper (a crackly feel).

If there is moisture, it will rot easily. You may still prepare the onion for cooking if you see sprouts.

How to store Onions?

As you want to keep onions away from moisture, you should place them in cool, open baskets or bowls, away from direct light.

Try not to place onions with other food as the enzymes may interact with each other.

How to prevent tearing?

This is a simple solution. Place the onion in the fridge or cold water to cool it before cutting.

How to cut Onions?

1. Cut away the top and bottom of the onion.
2. Remove the outer skin.
3. Slice the onion in half length ways.
4. Place one half of the onion on the chopping board and start slicing.
5. Continue with the second half of the onion.
6. If you need finely chopped onion, continue with the dicing.

Do you know?

Onion is one of the oldest vegetables They are found in a large number of recipes and preparations spanning almost the totality of the world's cultures.

Onions pickled in vinegar are eaten as a snack.

Spring onions are milder than most onions. 

Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep -Carl Sandburg

  Leave me a  if you would like to get recipes for onions.

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