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Why do onions make you cry? – Dana L., age 12, Belmont, Massachusetts
Onions are grown and used all around the world, and anybody who has minimize into one is aware of that it will probably make you cry. This occurs as a result of onions launch an irritating chemical that makes your eyes sting.
Onions are principally water, plus some nutritional vitamins and sugar compounds. Additionally they include compounds that embrace sulfur, a pure chemical discovered in lots of smelly substances, corresponding to skunk spray and garlic. That is a technique that vegetation defend themselves – producing substances that repel creatures who may eat them. Different vegetation have thorns or stinging leaves, or are product of particular cells that make them onerous to chew.
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One sulfur compound in onions, referred to as propyl sulfoxide, escapes into the air once you slice an onion. When it comes into contact with moisture, corresponding to water vapor within the air or the pure moisture round your eyes, it modifications into sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid has a robust odor and irritates your eyes, so 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 point of cube an onion, begin by reducing off and throwing away a bit of little bit of the foundation finish, which has a number of stringy little roots hanging from it. This lets a lot of the noxious sulfuric compounds, that are discovered within the root, escape. Then you may 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 after they’re chilly.
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Onions add taste to a number of our favourite meals, from spaghetti sauce to
tuna salad, so don’t let the odor drive you away. And gardeners like to develop decorative alliums – members of the onion household which might be bred for his or her seems. Many are very enticing, with blooms that make balls of colour on lengthy straight stalks. And their onion-y odor 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.