No matter how you slice it, preparing onions can be a tearjerker. But after decades of crossbreeding less pungent onion varieties, growers produced a new type they say won’t make cooks cry.
Tearless onions, first marketed as ‘Sunions’ in the U.S., are now in Europe. Farmer Robert Oldershaw helped bring them over. “People do pay a premium for what we would call premium onions,” he says.
Why does an onion make us tear up? “It actually produces a very small amount of sulfuric acid in your eye, and then your eyes natural defense is to produce tears to wash it away,” Oldershaw says.
Tearless onions taste milder. That’s because on the pyruvate scale that measures the pungency of onions, the tearless variety lands on a three while your typical onions hit about seven or eight.
But their higher price might make people’s eyes water. “Paying three times the cost of an onion just to kind of get rid of the tears, absolutely no way is that worth it to me,” says Katie Bryson, a food blogger for feedingboys.co.uk.
Growers say the onions were not genetically modified to make them tearless but rather carefully crossbred over about 30 years.