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Why do onions make you cry? – Dana L., age 12, Belmont, Massachusetts
Onions are grown and used everywhere in the world, and anybody who has minimize into one is aware of that it might probably make you cry. This occurs as a result of onions launch an irritating chemical that makes your eyes sting.
Onions are largely water, plus some nutritional vitamins and sugar compounds. Additionally they include compounds that embrace sulfur, a pure chemical discovered in lots of smelly substances, similar to skunk spray and garlic. That is a method that vegetation defend themselves – producing substances that repel creatures who may eat them. Different vegetation have thorns or stinging leaves, or are made from particular cells that make them onerous to chew.
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One sulfur compound in onions, known as propyl sulfoxide, escapes into the air whenever you slice an onion. When it comes into contact with moisture, similar to water vapor within the air or the pure moisture round your eyes, it modifications into sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid has a powerful scent and irritates your eyes, in order that they make tears to scrub it away.
There are some methods to keep away from this “emotional” onion expertise. Subsequent time you’re on the brink of cube an onion, begin by slicing off and throwing away just a little little bit of the basis finish, which has numerous stringy little roots hanging from it. This lets a lot of the noxious sulfuric compounds, that are discovered within the root, escape. Then you possibly can take away the sharp tip of the onion, peel its pores and skin and slice it with fewer tears.
Some cooks chill onions for half-hour earlier than they minimize them, which helps as a result of the sulfur compounds don’t escape into the air as simply once they’re chilly.
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Onions add taste to numerous our favourite meals, from spaghetti sauce to
tuna salad, so don’t let the scent drive you away. And gardeners like to develop decorative alliums – members of the onion household which are bred for his or her seems to be. Many are very enticing, with blooms that make balls of shade on lengthy straight stalks. And their onion-y scent helps fend off rabbits, deer and different animals searching for a tasty backyard meal.
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Minda Daughtry is affiliated with Harvesting Hope NC., a not-for-profit neighborhood backyard in Smithfield, NC.