There are papers out there on almost everything!

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!

6 thoughts on “There are papers out there on almost everything!”

  1. Darn it… now I’m not going to be able to get back to work until I look into this and figure out how easy or difficult it would be to remove the smell factor.

  2. I haven’t read the link you posted but I thought it was 15% of the general population that was affected by this (me being one of them).

  3. No, it’s a lot more than 15% — not sure what the actual percentage is, but people do have different sensitivities as the article points out.

  4. Oh, that’s one of my favorite quotes from Proust! He leads up to it, at length, with such poetic prose, then, *pow*, hits you with a little bathroom humor.

    Here’s the whole passage:

    “…but what most enraptured me were the asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and pink which shaded off from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible gradations to their white feet–still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed–with an iridescence that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, and who, through the disguise of their firm, edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night
    long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamber pot into a vase of aromatic perfume.”

  5. Speaking of Proust, you might find the scientific imagery in this quote amusing also: “meanwhile I procured some bread from our picnic basket, and threw pellets of it into the Vivonne which seemed to bring about a process of super-saturation,
    for the water at once solidified round them in oval clusters of emaciated tadpoles,
    which until then it had, no doubt, been holding in solution, invisible, and on
    the verge of entering the stage of crystallisation.”

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