It’s the flavour that gets up into your nose and makes you want to sneeze. Raw garlic and onions, black pepper, horseradish, mustard, wasabi, ginger – they all have a uniquely sharp, piquant or pungent quality. What is it? It’s a hotness that’s different from the heat of chiles, yet from a chemical standpoint, it’s nearly identical. The heat of chiles is measured on the Scoville scale, while the heat of garlic and onions is measured on the pyruvate scale, which measures their concentration of pyruvic acid — one of their “pungent” flavour components. The pungency of onions, garlic and radishes can be toned down by salting them and then rinsing them after a few minutes. It can also be tempered by milk products like yogourt and sour cream. Gesundheit!