Saturday, January 18, 2014

Food Chemistry: The case of the Avocado { Week 2}

This week, my professor put up the craziest food comparison pictures and I want you as my readers to experience the same "aaw" moment I did. So i'm going to show you the two pictures, and then explain.

What do you see?
Is this a fruit? Is it ripe? What will it taste like? Is it poisonous? Is it dangerous, or delicious?

What is this?
Is this a fruit? Is it ripe? What will it taste like? Is it poisonous? Is it dangerous, or delicious?

So, the top picture were strawberries. Perfectly ripe, no blemishes seen a bright red coat meaning they are probably nice and sweet inside. There is also probably a nice "crunch" to the texture (no mushy-ness here!) It's definitely not poisonous, it's actually a summer delicacy here in the states.

Second picture: for those of you who don't know, this is called a Bitter Melon. The one in this picture is going to taste exactly like the name. It is half unripe on the green portion. According to WebMD there are many health benefits for eating a (ripe) bitter melon. For example, Gastrointestinal stress, or just upset stomachs can be easily eased with the consumption of bitter melon. This Japanese staple is not a commonly eaten fruit in the US. Therefore, many of us may not know if this was ripe or not. Again, we are not innate to our perceptions. We have learned. We learned that a red 2 in maximum fruit that has little pores and a bright green 5-prawn stem is considered a "strawberry". We learned that when strawberries are fully red with no blemishes they are going to taste delicious (Because we've either tasted that same kind before, or we've tasted one with blemishes and we know it has to taste better than that one!). But with the bitter melon, we just don't know.

With the questions I asked below each picture, I was checking 3 main things: safety (is this poisonous), nourishing (does it have some kind of vitamin/health benefit I can glean from) and preference (what will it taste like, will it be delicious?) Those are questions are body automatically asks itself when it sees a food item before you eat it.

Besides just vision, we can also utilize our touch receptors. Come on, you all know you are guilty of this. When you walk into a grocery store and go for the avocados... the poor avocados don't know that your "tests" are coming to them. You quickly begin squeezing the avocados with your fingers. If the avocado is very firm, it is likely  tossed aside (considered "unripe"). If your fingers dig deep into the meat of the avocado, it is also tossed (too ripe).  So after touching all the avocados you find your perfect guacamole culprit and walk away while another shopper does the exact same thing. Touch is key for quality control.

There are also touch receptors on your tongue. These allow you to detect the texture of your food item passing your mouth, much like your fingers did with the avocado.  So next time you go to the grocery store and you run towards those avocados... remember, this is actually a sensory test happening in your midst and now you know, there is an actual science behind your pinching madness!

Until next week!

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