If you’ve ever had to chop an onion, you probably know that it’s one of the most annoying cooking experiences. It just fills your eyes with tears and, apart from wearing goggles, there’s not too much you can do about it. Scientists and farmers have been working on a solution to this problem for decades, and they’ve apparently come up with a tearless onion.
Called the “Sunion”, this new vegetable is the result of a natural cross-breeding program that’s been going on farms in Nevada and Washington since the 1980s, which should put consumers worried about genetically-modified produce at ease. It’s supposedly a sweet, mild-tasting onion that doesn’t leave that strong, pungent aftertaste, but what really sets it apart from most other onion varieties is that it doesn’t cause teary eyes when it’s chopped.
Photo: Alli Peters for Sunions
When you cut into a normal onion, it releases a volatile compound called lachrymatory-factor synthase, and when that hits your eyes, your body produces tears to reduce irritation. Now, the interesting thing about regular onions is that the amounts of lachrymatory-factor synthase increase the longer the vegetables are stored, so the older they, the more you cry. In Sunions, on the other hand, the levels of that annoying volatile compound drop the more time goes by, until it lo longer has any effect on your eyes when you cut it.
That’s what Sunion growers are claiming anyway, but reports from those lucky enough to have tried them seem to confirm these claims. The Huffington Post had three of its reporters chop some Sunions, and apparently, none of them shed a single tear. According to the Washington Post, they don’t have the pungency of regular onions and are so sweet that you can eat them “like popcorn”.
So the good news is that tearless onions are now a real thing. The bad news is that they are currently only grown in Washington and Nevada, and even though they are sold nationwide, they are still in relatively short supply. The first Sunion batches hit the shelves of grocery stores in December, but we’ll probably start seeing them in most grocery shops and supermarkets in the next few years, as more people learn about them.
“Sunions growers are currently working diligently with stores and supermarkets across the country to find the best locations to offer this groundbreaking product,” a spokesperson for the growers said.
Interestingly, even though Sunions are being marketed as the world’s first tearless onions, back in 2015, we wrote about a similar creation from Japanese company House Foods Group. They claimed to have also created the world’s first “tear-free” onion, by disabling the compounds that the popular vegetable releases when chopped. However, they irradiated the onions to do it, which was bound to keep some consumers away.