Chopping onions is a recurring kitchen nightmare that often brings home cooks to tears, but red eyes could be a thing of the past as ‘tearless’ onions go on sale in the UK for the first time.
Next week, Waitrose will start selling Sunions in its stores, a variety of “brown, tearless and sweet” onions that is touted as a “game changer” for red-eyed chefs. Onions, which are marketed under the slogan “Not a Single Tear,” took over 30 years to perfect.
The irritation caused by the fumes given off when slicing an onion means that every day Britons go to great lengths to eliminate the sob factor at mealtime. The tricks used are to put onions in the freezer first, soak them in water, or even wear swimming goggles. Indeed, Waitrose’s sister chain John Lewis sells special ‘onion glasses’ with anti-fog lenses for £ 23 to get the job done.
However, onion goggles may soon be obsolete thanks to the Sunions, which Waitrose says are “perfect for those with sensitive eyes as well as for cooking in the kitchen with children.”
With the vegetable being a staple of many dishes, Paul Bidwell, the supermarket’s onion buyer, said Sunions would be a versatile ingredient. The “sweetness of this type of onion lends itself perfectly to a variety of dishes, from salads to hot dishes”, he said.
However, in a time when food bills are going up anyway, Sunions can still make you cry because they are much more expensive than regular onions. A pack of three Sunions costs £ 1.50 – or 50p per onion. That’s three times more than Waitrose’s cheapest own-brand onions, which cost 14 pence each.
The race to develop a tearless onion has been long, with scientists around the world working on prototypes for decades. Sunions was launched in the United States four years ago. They reached mainland Europe last year when the brand was taken over by a number of Spanish retailers.
The onion was originally developed by agricultural giant Bayer, but is now owned by chemical company BASF, which has acquired part of its seeds and crops business. He says the Sunions are not genetically modified but the product of decades of crossing less pungent strains of onions.
On the brand’s website, it says that, unlike all other onions, they “get sweeter every day”. “The volatile compounds in onions are responsible for the pungent, pungent flavor and the amounts of these compounds in other onions stay the same or increase over time. In Sunions, these compounds do the exact opposite and decrease to create a tearless, soft and smooth onion.