Sunday, October 01, 2006

Onions and tears, monkshood, human race

An article in the paper (drawn from the Last Word correspondence in the New Scientist answers the question, why do onions make you cry? They contain, it says, a derivitive of sulphur, which is decomposed by an enzyme to form the volatile propanthial S-oxidide. This is the irritant or lacrimator. Upon contact with water - in this case on your eyes, the irritant hydrolises to propanol, sulphuric acid and hydrogen sulphide. Tearfully the eyes try to dilute the acid. What it doesn't say is what most chefs will tell you; that nearly all the tear-making irritant is in the root end of the bulb. If you cut this off and discard it before chopping there should be no tears.

About this time of year the monkshood in the garden is in flower. It is poisonous, but a bright, magical blue.

The human race is a race which, in the long run, no body wins.

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