Field of Science

How does blue taste?

Yesterday's laboratory covered starchy staples, not the most exciting topic, but more interesting than most students think at first.  Actually their interest level was pretty good.  Taro and cassava were new things for most of them; several expressed disbelief that they were purchased in a standard big grocery store where some of the shopped, but never noticed them before.  A surprising number had never encountered sweet potatoes as food before!  Unfortunately our glasshouse yam, while prolific, produces aerial tubers and like potatoes exposed to light, the chloroplasts in the cells beneath their corky skin develop and along with the greenish tissue comes toxic compounds with a bitter taste.  Real yams never show up in our markets although sweet potatoes are routinely so labeled.  The genetic diversity of potatoes in our markets is a relatively new thing, and most of them had never noticed blue potatoes before.  After examination of the items they were sliced thin and fried into "chips".  One young woman who was a bit reluctant to try new things asked, "How does the blue taste?"  "Amazing," a clever fellow replied, "best blue ever".  Blue has a flavor?  Oh well.  The examination of starch grains using polarized light microscopy was also something new for them and they got to add "birefringence" to their vocabulary.  On the whole this was quite successful because one of the primary purposes is to awaken students to things around them of which they were totally unaware.  And there are lots more awakenings to come!  (Image from Eat the Rainbow.)  

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