Slicing and dicing onions is a crucial, unavoidable part of cooking (and hey, we love onions!), but the process can generate more tears and red eyes than a sappy rom-com.
No longer: Scientists are hard at work creating tear-free onions, and now, Japanese producer House Foods is claiming to have solved the problem with its brand new Smile Ball onions. Not only does the onion have an irresistible name; it's engineered to be tear-free. Smile Balls join Asda Sweet Red onions, which a British farmer introduced last year, and which allegedly also won't cause tears—or onion breath. House Foods has been working on the onions for more than a decade, and won the Ig Nobel Prize in 2013 for discovering the tear-causing enzyme in onions. (The prize, presented at Harvard, celebrates ideas that "make you laugh, then make you think.")
The Smile Ball onions, made tear-free via a process that suppresses the production of syn-propanethial-S-oxide, an enzyme that causes the tear-jerking fumes, will cost more than your basic onion: 450 yen in Japan (about $4.30) for a two-pack. Yes, they're much pricier than the five-pound bag you're buying at your local supermarket, but maybe worth that investment if you can’t get through a basic sauté without turning into sobbing mess. Smile Balls are also supposedly sweet and mild enough to eat raw, and like the Asda Sweets, allegedly don't cause bad breath either.
Fruit and vegetable hybrids are nothing new, of course; the process of crossing various plants and seeds to engineer desirable new versions dates back years, and Scientific American calls some of the methods "a modern alternative to GMOs."
“There’s been a radical change in the tools we use,” Jim Myers of Oregon State University, a plant breeder who created an eggplant-purple tomato, told Scientific American. “What is most exciting to me, and what I never thought I would be doing, is going in and looking at candidate genes for traits. As the price of sequencing continues to drop, it will become more and more routine to do sequences for every individual population of plants you’re working with.”
Even for those of us who aren't biologists, the possibility of creating delicious, nutritious versions of certain ingredients while sidestepping their downsides could be pretty exciting too. For instance, scientists at the University of Western Australia are currently working on creating an allergy-free peanut. A world without peanut allergies really would bring a tear to our eyes.
[via Rocketnews 24.]
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