Reprinted from The Piscataquis and Penobscot Gardening Newsletter, published by UMaine Extension.
Since I was a little girl, I was learning from my mother the basic cooking skills, and once in a while I noticed she was crying in the kitchen. I in my naïve little girl mind I always thought she was sad, but when I began to be part of the cooking team at home I realized that her eyes were full of tears due to the onions. Basically the cause of these tears is the amount of sulfur stored in the onion flesh; this is released as fumes when we cut them.
As gardeners, it is possible to manage the amount of sulfur in the onions by growing them in low sulphur soils or planting varieties with lower sulphur “uptake”. Some varieties like Walla Walla, Mt Whitney and Ailsa Craig are a good choice.
However, maybe you don’t know the reasons why Mother Nature made the onions this way. Actually the sulfur protects the onion plant from diseases and insects but it benefits us as consumers because our bodies need sulfur in hundreds of physiological processes.
On the other hand, onions are safe to eat in any quantity you are likely to consume because they are low in sodium, free from fats, cholesterol, contain a pretty good mix of vitamins and minerals and is a vital component in promoting overall health.
So on behalf of our health I think the tears in the kitchen after all are not too bad.