No more tears.
No more tears.
Courtesy of Sunions

Odorless Onion, Sunions, Now Available at Publix

There is no movie scene that reveals the plight of women and cooks better than one in the 2009 film Julie & Julia, in which Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, sets to dicing cases of onions after being bullied her first day at the Paris cooking school Le Cordon Bleu.

When her husband Paul Child, played by Stanley Tucci, arrives home from his job at the U.S. embassy, the kitchen is so overtaken by the onion's acrid fumes he can't even enter.

Continue Reading

A decade after the film was released and 69 years after Child first stepped into cooking school, Bayer Crop Science, part of the massive German conglomerate that recently absorbed U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto, has released Sunions, a sweet allium that when cut, won't release any of the tear-inducing chemicals with which Mother Nature so spitefully filled her onions.

Grown in Nevada and Washington, they were first released in October 2017 and became available at Miami Publix supermarkets earlier this month.

"Sunions were cultivated through a natural cross-breeding program over the course of more than two decades," a company statement says.

"The breeder hand-picked onion bulbs that were consistently less pungent to develop less variability in flavor. Volatile compounds in onions are responsible for tearing, and the amounts of those compounds in other onions increase over time. In Sunions, these compounds do the exact opposite — they decrease every day after harvest to produce a tearless and sweet onion," the statement adds.

But cooks and chefs have known for decades how to mitigate the stinging effect of cutting onions.

"Notice my eyes aren't tearing up," Dani Marin, sous-chef at the Bazaar by José Andrés, says on a recent Sunday afternoon while dicing onions and shallots during a knife skills and maintenance class for about a dozen cooks. "It's the liquid inside the onion cells that causes your eyes to tear. If you have a sharp knife, you damage less cells, release less liquid, and your eyes won't tear."

That means a corporate titan with vast resources spent two decades developing a product whose results could have been achieved by home cooks spending a mere ten to 15 minutes sharpening their knives. While there are also gimmicky anti-tearing tricks such as keeping a piece of bread in your mouth while chopping onions, the other viable solution is to chill your alliums in ice water or the refrigerator before making the first cut.

And what price do we pay for such convenience? According to the Washington Post, it's flavor, or lack thereof.

Onions release the sulfuric chemical irritant syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which irritates the eyes, causing burning and tearing. Yet those same chemical compounds that cause eyes to burn is also responsible for the unique flavors that make onions a foundational ingredient in so many world cuisines.

That's not to say Sunions' breeders chose to simply forgo flavor in favor of a tearless allium.

"To ensure the delivery of the Sunions brand promise of a consistently tearless and sweet onion, they must be certified ready to ship by three different testing panels for flavor and tearlessness," a press release from the company says.

Though Sunions seem mostly harmless, one can't help but be perturbed at this latest example of the Western world's seemingly endless enthusiasm to change the natural world in the way it deems fittest. A most local and concerning example is only a few miles away, where the Everglades has seemingly been irreparably altered and damaged by the sugar industry's resurfacing of what was once pristine wetland. 

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories