Remember that time I told you about an amazing food science lecture series at UCLA? Well, Science & Food is back and better than ever. Not only will they be presenting three new public lectures this spring, but they’ve also been hard at work creating awesome new internet content. Oh, and yours truly will be helping out! It’ll be like Bite-Sized Biology on food science steroids.

But wait! There’s more…Science & Food UCLA is now on Tumblr!

So if you’ve been craving more food science in your life, check out the Science & Food website, visit the blog, and follow @scienceandfood on Twitter for all the latest updates. And if you’re an LA local, stay tuned for more information about the public lectures.

5 Things About Taste

At our 2014 public lecture How We Taste, Chef Wylie Dufresne, Dr. Dana Small, and Peter Meehan explored the tantalizingly complex concept of flavor. The evening was full of scientific discovery, childhood memories, and culinary innovation. In honor of this enlightening event, here are 5 things you might not know about our sense of taste…

Bet our friends at scienceandfood know all about the science behind baking Irish soda bread. Soda bread uses a chemical leavening, so it rises by an acid-base reaction (soda refers to the base used — baking soda). And the buttermilk that’s added contains lactic acid which reacts with the baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). A lot going on, but we just enjoy the results.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Watch on

Amazingly cool!! I would love to try this!


So you dip it and let the magic of science work. #Iscreamist #SMores #ScienceAndFood @juliasayco (at Iscreamist)

Coffee Brewing Methods

Gone are the days where all that was needed to make a cup of brewed coffee was an auto-drip machine and a paper filter. Coffee shops now have glass siphons lining the counter, looking as if they came straight from a chemistry lab. Baristas can be seen meticulously pouring water from a swan necked kettle into a ceramic funnel, which slowly drips coffee into a cup sitting on a scale. With the resulting brews varying in flavor, why stick to just one method? Read more…

Photo Credit: Janne Moren (JanneM/Flickr)

Fruits and Veggies Under the Microscope

source: Discover Magazine,  via scienceandfood


This young fruit is of the widely grown garden strawberry variety. The individual “hairs” can be clearly seen. They are the remnant reproductive organs of the individual seeds on the berry’s surface.


Close-up of a broccoli head showing a cluster of immature buds. The tiny pits visible on the surface are stomata, or breathing pores.


Microscopic detail of the surface of a peach. The downy texture of peach skin is due to thousands of hairs, the majority of which are very short. Stomata, or breathing pores, are marked in red.

Black Mulberry

The black mulberry has been cultivated since antiquity, and is probably originally from China. Here, the microscopic detail shows the individual fruitlets. The hairy texture is withered reproductive organs (stigma).


Cross-section through the leaf of a leek. The spongy tissue, called mesophyll, is typical of leaves. Here the leaf shown magnified is just 1.2 millimeters thick.


This is a close-up of an “eye” of a potato with three emerging shoots, the longest of which is about 4 millimeters long.

Japanese Wineberry

This relative to the raspberry and blackberry is native to northern China, Korea and Japan. Curiously, the whole plant, including the sepals that encase the fruit, is covered in sticky hairs.


The edible parts of a cauliflower, shown here at high magnification, are actually fleshy, immature flower heads.

Images excerpted from Wonders of the Plant Kingdom: A Microcosm Revealed, © Wolfgang Stuppy, Rob Kesseler & Madeline Harley/Papadakis Publisher.

Published in the United States by the University of Chicago Press.

Taste Tripping With Miracle Berries

Imagine eating a lemon and puckering to incredibly sour…no wait, incredibly sweet citrus syrup. Then you try some tart goat cheese, but to your surprise, it tastes like sugary frosting. An underripe pineapple? Better than candy. Salt and vinegar chips? Dessert!

This fantastical taste-changing sensation is the real-life effect of a West African fruit called Synsepalum dulcificum (Richardella Dulcifica), or the “miracle berry”, which physically alters taste receptors and causes sour foods to taste sweet.

How does this work?

The secret is a protein found in miracle berries called miraculin. Read more…

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Stilton Cheese & The Human Microbiome

With all this talk of Human Cheese, we’re thinking—and reading!—a lot about the microorganisms in cheese and in our bodies. In this week’s round-up, researchers discover “secondary flora” that contribute to Stilton’s unique smell, and Michael Pollan investigates our symbiotic relationship with the microbes within us. What we’re reading…

Why Do We Bother to Eat Bitter?

Through exploration of the ancestral context of taste, scientists can better understand how modern humans use the sense of taste to make decisions and survive. Evolution has shaped our sense of taste to guide us to seek the food we need to survive, while steering clear of foods harmful to us. It is understandable that early humans who avoided spoiled meat and poisonous berries were able to pass down their genes, giving modern humans the ability to avoid them too. But what explains the countless humans who voluntarily consume, and even enjoy, some bitter foods? Why do we eat bitter greens? Brussels sprouts? Hoppy beers? Why do we tolerate some bitter flavors and not others? Read more…

Photo credit: Melissa McClellan/Flickr