NPR

Leave It To Botanists To Turn Cooking Into A Science Lesson

Why do artichokes look so strange? What makes okra so slimy – and how can science help you turn that attribute into a taste sensation? Two botanists take plant science into the kitchen.
Okra slime changes when its pH changes. To make okra less slimy, says botanist Katherine Preston, cook it with an acid, which changes the properties of the molecules in the mucilage and renders it far less viscous. Southerners cook okra with tomatoes, which provide plenty of acid. Source: Mary Mathis/NPR

Have you ever wondered why kiwi fruits are green instead of red? Why okra is slimy but cooking it with tomatoes cuts the goo factor? Or how artichokes became giant balls of thick, spiny leaves endlessly furled over a small, soft heart? If so, you're not alone.

In 2012 two botanists, Katherine Preston of Stanford University and Jeanne Osnas of the Alaska Center for Conservation Science, started a blog called Botanists in the Kitchen to answer exactly those kinds of questions.

You might think that botanists spend most of their time exploring fields, forests, parks, farms or wilderness areas, working to identify, study and protect the rich bounty of the plant world.

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