The campaign for tearless onions have been going on for years, and now and after three decades of research and development, scientists at Bayer Crop Science found a solution.
The tearless onion, dubbed the Sunion, is sweet, mild, crunchy and will not make you cry. Without using any genetic modification, Bayer Crop Science cultivated the first tearless sweet onion through two decades of natural cross-breeding and research.
What’s with the waterworks, anyway? Researchers say it’s caused by the gas released when you cut into an onion. Onions contain a volatile compound called lachrymatory factor synthase, which produces tears when it hits your eyes, and then your eyes water to reduce irritation. In standard onions, the amount of these compounds stay the same or increase over time. In Sunions, the pungency decreases; alas, a no-tears onion is born.
Sunions are currently grown in Nevada and Washington, harvested in late summer and early fall, and will be sold for the first time in grocery stores at the end of December until March or April. There is no word on where they will be sold, but a spokesperson said Sunion growers are working to find the best stores and supermarkets across the country to debut this exclusive product.
Placed side-by-side, Sunions do not look any different than their weepy counterparts, perhaps just slightly smaller. Sunions also stay fresh for up to six months, which is slightly longer than your average onion.
Bayer Crop Science’s discovery of an Onion 2.0 started back in the 80s, but other tearless onion developments cropped up since then. Back in 2008, Dr. Colin Eady of Crop & Food Research in New Zealand and collaborators in Japan tested an early tearless onion using a gene-silencing technology called RNA interference. The process targeted the plant’s lachrymatory factor synthase gene and turned the gene “off,” almost like a light switch (although far more tedious and Gordian).
The tearless variety of onions by Bayer Crop Science, hitting retailers soon, must first jump through a comprehensive marketing plan, including point-of-sale materials, social media content, advertising and public relations campaign, and then a sensory panel involving “tasting experts” who determine Sunions’ peak flavor and tearlessness.
Once Sunions gets the green light, onions will become one less thing to cry about.