It amazes me how much information is out there if you really look for it. This morning I was having a discussion with a couple of friends about how and why asparagus affects the odor of urine (I might or might not be able to let you know why next week — after my administrators decide how much potty humor they’ll let me get away with). Anyway, I decided to see what I could actually find out about it and found a remarkable number of papers on the topic including this recent one on odor perception. In a nutshell it says that there are actually differences in the way we produce and smell that characteristic scent that asparagus gives urine. The introduction is quite interesting — I even pulled this nugget out “Proust wrote more favorably that asparagus “as in a Shakespeare fairy-story transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume” “. Hmmmm. Participants in the study had to smell other peoples urine to grade its odor level. In fact, here’s another quote from the article: “Some subjects were unable to complete some parts of the testing. For instance, some people could not complete the smelling phase because of unanticipated aversions to urine.” Interesting. These people had, presumably, been around urine all their life. Probably even produced some themselves. How could they not know they were averse to it till now?
Here’s what I want to know: Is there a market for asparagus that doesn’t result in the odor, and, if so, is it even possible to breed this trait out or is the flavor of asparagus intimately tied to this mildly unpleasant side-effect? Now there’s a problem for a breeder!