Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas Science - Sprout Issues

Is the reason people don’t like sprouts down to some simple chemistry and genetics, or is there more to it than that?

Only 4 more sleeps until Christmas, probably just about enough time to get a delivery in from Amazon of my new book (currently rated 4.6 stars out of 5). Until then lets talk about Brassica oleracea.

One of the classic Christmas cliches is that we all hate sprouts. It's clearly not true though if you look at the volume of the teeny tiny cabbages sold in the supermarkets. However, there are definitely a proportion of us who are sprout-phobic and resist the lure of the Christmas brassica.

Sprouts produce a chemical inside them called sulforophane, which they do to try and deter herbivores from eating them. It turns out that this chemical is very closely related to one, called phenylthiocarbamide (or PTC), the tasting of which is controlled by a simple genetic switch in humans. For 70% of humans, PTC tastes very bitter. The remaining 30% can’t taste it at all. So, it is possible that people who don’t like sprouts fall within the group who can taste PTC and the sulforophane tastes bitter. However, I know I am a taster but the reason I didn’t like sprouts was the mouth feel of them. In short, they were always over cooked. Three years ago I had my sprout epiphany, discovered that they only need to be steamed for 4 minutes and now I love them.

1 comment:

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Science TV Presenter, live show performer, writer, strange prop builder and all round Science Bloke. All opinions expressed are mine alone. Not the BBC's, just mine.