We often end up in tears when cutting onions. Have you ever wondered why onions make you cry when you cut them? Of-course they contain some pungent juice which makes you cry but do you know what is in that juice? Here is the chemistry of how and what makes you cry on cutting onions.

1. As you cut an onion you break the cells which are full of amino acid sulfoxides from sulfenic acids and allinase enzymes. These enzymes are now free to mix with sulfenic acids.

2.The sulfenic acid rearranges itself into thiosulfinates when mixed with the enzymes which produces a pungent odor. Then the acids convert to a gas, syn-propanethial-S-oxide by the LF-synthase enzyme. Syn-propanethial-S-oxide is also known as Lachrymatory which is responsible for tears.

3. The lachrymatory reaches your eyes through air and strikes the cornea which contains autonomic motor fibers that result in lachrymal glands. When syn-propanethial-S-oxide is detected, it makes all the fibers present in the cornea start firing away and directs the lachrymal glands to wash away the irritant.

4. All these reactions make us blink our eyes and produce tears. As we shed tears, it chucks out the irritant substance. When we cry, we tend to rub our eyes with hands which makes things worse as our hands also contain some syn-propanethial-S-oxide from holding the onion.

Stop rubbing your eyes with your hands. Here are some tricks you can try to avoid crying while cutting onions:

1. Cut under a vent
Place your cutting board on the stove and switch on the overhead vent or microwave ventilation fan, this will help redirect the irritating gas produced by onions. This will help you have a painless and tearless experience.

2. Chew gum
Chewing gum while cutting onions really helps, it helps you breathe through your mouth which helps keep fumes away from your eyes. Don’t look down at the onion or towards the cutting board as this will bring you into contact with fumes again.

3. Wear goggles
There are special goggles designed for cutting onions that protect your eyes from the irritating fumes and vapors. They are available in many stores and online.

4. Cool it
Keep onions in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before cutting. This will cause a chemical reaction and reduce fumes that cause tears.

5. Soak it
Soak your onion in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes. This will help in eliminating the sulfuric compounds from the onion in the water. This is a great and simple trick which really works. This will also result into milder-tasting onions.

6. Cut under running water
If you are in hurry and you don’t have time to soak the onions in water, you can simply cut your onions under running water. The water will help keep the fumes away from your eyes. It will make your onion a bit slippery, but it really works.

7 Julienne
This trick involves learning the proper process to julienne an onion like a professional. You have to cut your onion quickly which requires practice. This trick can also improve your knife skills and make you a great cutter.

• Its important to use a sharp knife, this will enable you to cut your onion quickly before you are exposed to those irritating fumes.

• You can use green onions as they contain fewer LF-synthase enzymes and don’t produce syn-propanethial-S-oxide.

The African Child


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