Garlic and onions, along with leeks, chives, and shallots, all belong to the allium family of vegetables. While cutting into an onion can lead to teary eyes due to the release of irritating chemicals, many people wonder if the same applies to garlic. In this article, we will explore the truth behind whether garlic can make you cry like an onion or not.
Unlike onions, garlic lacks tear-inducing chemicals. Although some may experience mild eye irritation when handling garlic, it is not as intense as with onions. Techniques like good ventilation, using a sharp knife, and protective eyewear can help minimize any discomfort.
The Allium Family: A Common Culinary Delight
The allium family encompasses several flavorful and commonly used vegetables, including onions, leeks, chives, shallots, and garlic. These vegetables are well-known for adding distinct tastes to various cuisines worldwide. However, onions have earned a reputation for their ability to bring tears to our eyes during meal preparation.
⇨ According to the National Onion Association, the annual per capita consumption of onions in the United States has risen over 70 percent in the last two decades, from 12.2 pounds per person in 1982 to just over 20 pounds per person in 2018.
Onions: The Tear-Provokers
When an onion is sliced or chopped, it releases an irritating chemical into the air, which can settle in our tear ducts. This chemical is what triggers the tearing reaction in our eyes when we encounter onions in the kitchen. Those reflex tears are stimulated purely by exposure to the irritants and not by any emotional factors.
Garlic: A Potent Flavor without the Tears
Contrary to onions, garlic does not contain the same tear-inducing chemicals. When garlic is chopped or crushed, it primarily releases allicin, a compound responsible for its strong flavor and many health benefits. This chemical doesn’t have the same effect on our tear ducts as the compounds found in onions do.
The Mystery of Tearful Garlic Chopping
While garlic doesn’t have tear-provoking chemicals, some individuals claim to experience teary eyes when dealing with garlic. However, it’s essential to distinguish between genuine crying and mild eye irritation. The reasons for such experiences can be attributed to a few factors:
- Sensitive Eyes: Some people naturally have more sensitive eyes than others, making them susceptible to mild eye irritation from various substances, including garlic.
- Environmental Factors: The environment in which garlic is chopped can play a role. Poor ventilation may lead to the buildup of garlic’s pungent aroma, which might cause mild irritation in the eyes.
- Individual Reactions: Each person’s body chemistry is unique, and some individuals may have a slight sensitivity to the compounds released by garlic.
The Importance of Proper Technique
To minimize any potential irritation while handling garlic, here are some tips to follow:
- Sharp Knife: Use a sharp knife to cut garlic, as a dull knife can release more enzymes and compounds, potentially causing eye irritation.
- Ventilation: Ensure that your kitchen has proper ventilation to disperse any garlic aroma effectively.
- Avoid Rubbing Eyes: If you do experience mild eye irritation, avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can exacerbate the discomfort.
- Wear Onion Goggles: If you’re highly sensitive to irritants, consider using onion goggles or protective eyewear while handling garlic.
How do you cut garlic without crying?
- Chewing a Piece of Bread or Bubble Gum: Chewing a piece of bread or bubble gum while cutting garlic can help reduce tears. The process of chewing stimulates the salivary glands, and the act of swallowing helps prevent the irritating compounds from reaching the tear ducts.
- Leaving the Onion Stem Intact: When cutting garlic alongside onions, leave the stem of the onion intact. The stem end contains a higher concentration of tear-inducing compounds. By keeping it intact, you can minimize the release of these irritants into the air.
- Chilling the Onion in the Refrigerator: Before cutting onions, consider placing them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. The cold temperature helps slow down the release of sulfur gas, which is responsible for tearing up your eyes.
- Cutting Onion Under Cold Water: Another method to reduce onion-induced tears is to cut the onion under cold running water. The water will wash away the irritating compounds, preventing them from reaching your eyes.
Why does garlic burn eyes?
Garlic contains a compound called allinase, which, when garlic is chopped or crushed, converts the amino acids in garlic into a compound known as allicin. This allicin is highly volatile and can readily transform into other sulfur-containing compounds, including syn-propanethial-S-oxide. When this compound comes into contact with your eyes, it creates a mild form of sulfuric acid, causing a burning sensation.
Can garlic irritate your eyes?
Yes, garlic can cause eye irritation if it comes into direct contact with your eyes. The allicin present in garlic is a volatile compound that can irritate the eyes, leading to a burning sensation. If you accidentally get garlic in your eyes, it is essential to flush them with water immediately to help reduce the irritation.
How do chefs not cry when chopping onions?
Chefs have learned various techniques to minimize tears while chopping onions. Here are some of their tricks:
- Refrigerating Onions: Chefs often refrigerate onions for a short period before cutting them. The colder temperature slows down the release of tear-inducing compounds, reducing the reaction with the eyes.
- Keeping the Root Intact: The National Onion Association recommends keeping the root intact while cutting onions. The root end has a higher concentration of irritating compounds, so leaving it undisturbed can reduce tears.
Is it better to cut or crush garlic?
The choice between cutting and crushing garlic depends on the desired flavor profile in the dish:
- Cutting Garlic: Chopping garlic will release a moderate amount of sulfur compounds. This approach leaves a subtle hint of garlic flavor in the dishes.
- Crushing Garlic: Crushing the garlic cloves releases more sulfur compounds, resulting in a stronger garlic flavor. Chefs often use this method when they want a more pronounced garlic taste in their culinary creations.
The Verdict: Garlic Doesn’t Make You Cry Like Onion
In conclusion, while onions can bring tears to your eyes due to the presence of tear-inducing chemicals, garlic does not share the same trait. Chopping or crushing garlic may cause mild eye irritation in some individuals, but it’s not the same as crying induced by onions.
So, the next time you’re cooking up a storm and cutting garlic, rest assured that the tears you shed won’t be triggered by this flavorful allium family member. Enjoy the delicious aroma and taste of garlic in your favorite dishes without worrying about any tearful consequences!