2 May 2019

Quick facts about the food on your plate

TV presenter Stefan Gates gives us the lowdown on the science behind your food.

By Sandra Howard

Tomato soup

5 amazing things about the food on your plate:


1. You can turn yourself orange if you eat enough carrots (but it’s a lot of carrots).


2. Apple pips contain cyanide. You’d need to eat tonnes to poison yourself though.


3. Bread flour is explosive. There are enough calories in a cake to blow a hole in a brick wall.


4. Tonic water glows under UV light – it’s all about quantum mechanics.


5. When your gut bacteria break your food down, one by-product is smelly gas. But different people produce different smells. When women break wind, the smell tends to be smellier and more explosive than men’s because their gut bacteria are more likely to produce stinky hydrogen sulfide and methane.

TV presenter Stephan Gates performs a science experiment at the Wakehurst festival
TV presenter Stephan Gates performs a science experiment at the Wakehurst festival

5 more amazing things about ketchup:


1. Ketchup is a ‘shear thinning’ substance. It becomes more liquid under stress, and more viscous at rest. When you wallop a ketchup bottle on its side, it momentarily becomes more liquid, but when it stops, it returns to its original ‘thick’ consistency.


2. Many people think that it’s dangerous to eat chemicals. Ketchup – like every single food on Earth – is a bundle of chemicals. 

Tomatoes naturally contain chemicals that are also known as E621, E160a carotene, E160d lycopene, E101 riboflavin, E300 ascorbic acid, E330 citric acid, and E296 malic acid.


3. Tomatoes are botanically classified as fruit, not vegetables.


4. Lots of top chefs add a squirt of ketchup to their spaghetti bolognese sauce because it has sugar, salt and loads of free glutamate, which makes food taste great.


5. Ketchup was originally made from pickled fish and spices, then later from mushrooms. When it first appeared in Britain in 1690 it was called ‘catchup’.

Hotdog with ketchup
Hotdog with ketchup Credit: Peter Secan/Unsplash
Kew Science Festival at Wakehurst, RBG Kew

Kew Science Festival at Wakehurst

Join our scientists for fun-filled experiments, activities and more. Come curious, leave inspired. 25 & 26 May 2019.

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