Video: The Smell of Durian Explained

Durian is known as the king of fruits in Southeast Asia, but it’s also banned from many public spaces due to its powerful odor.

This video explains the unique chemistry behind durian, and catches people reacting to this stinky delicacy as they try it for the first time.

Watch video at You Tube (5:52 minutes) . . . .

Winery Seeks to Replicate High-end Wines in a Lab

Marisa Kendall wrote . . . . . . .

The founders of Ava Winery spend their days turning water into wine.

They aren’t miracle workers. They’re chemists with one goal — to reverse engineer the perfect bottle of wine, in a lab, without grapes.

By freeing their wine from the confines of the grape harvest, Ava’s founders say they’re creating a more environmentally sustainable, predictable and cost-effective beverage. It’s the same logic a growing number of food-tech companies already embrace — from Memphis Meats making lab-grown chicken, to Clara Foods making animal-free egg whites — as some experts worry about the toll farming and livestock take on the Earth.

Perhaps most importantly, Ava’s founders swear the majority of people who taste their wine side-by-side with a traditional variety can’t tell which one is synthetic and which is made from fermented grapes.

“The product we end up with is chemically identical to wine,” co-founder Alec Lee said. “It’s indistinguishable at a molecular level.”

The idea for Ava Winery was born when co-founder Mardonn Chua, a chemist and wine enthusiast, caught a glimpse of, but couldn’t taste, a bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay — a rare and world-renowned wine that can sell for more than $10,000 per bottle. In true Silicon Valley fashion, he decided he could recreate that wine — and others — and make them accessible to all wine lovers.

Instead of a winery full of musky-smelling wooden wine barrels that overlooks a Napa vineyard, Ava runs a lab in an industrial corner of San Francisco’s Dog Patch neighborhood, a stone’s throw from WineWorks winery and Triple Voodoo Brewery. There, the startup’s team of chemists use a technique called chromatography to analyze samples of traditional wine — they force small amounts of wine through a device that separates it into its molecular components. Using software to analyze those resulting molecules, the scientists then come up with their own recipe to recreate the original wine.

They start with a base of water and high-proof alcohol distilled from corn, and then add molecules for flavor and aroma such as tartaric acid (a sour flavor), sotolon (notes of maple syrup and caramel) or grindstaff pyrazine (an earthy flavor and bell-pepper-like smell).

I visited Ava recently to try its test tube wine, and brought along Mary Orlin, this news organization’s food and wine writer, who is also a Sommelier. As soon as the wine was uncorked — we were trying a replica of a Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling, white dessert wine — the conference room we were sitting in was flooded with the smell of tropical fruit.

It looked like white wine — it was pale gold in color, and a tiny stream of bubbles snaked up through the glass. I took a sip. It tasted like wine — albeit very sweet wine, which I usually avoid. But it was refreshing, with strong peach and banana flavors, and I had no trouble downing my glass.

Orlin was intrigued by the concept of test-tube wine. But as far as she’s concerned, Ava hasn’t mastered it yet.

“It had very much a synthetic flavor to me,” she said after the tasting. “It tasted like banana bubble gum.”

She suggested plopping an ice cube in the glass and sipping it outside on a hot day — a sentiment I agreed with.

The wine we tasted had been bottled the day before, but that recipe has gone through hundreds of iterations over the past year and a half. Originally intended to be a chardonnay, it came out tasting more like moscato, so the founders said “let’s just run with it,” Lee recalled.

But their very first attempt, due to what the founders called a “miscalculation,” was less than delicious.

“It tasted like jelly beans,” said Chua. “Not in a good way.”

The problem was that the founders had eliminated some of the naturally occurring compounds that produce off-flavors in wine as part of the fermentation process. It turned out that even though those flavors aren’t considered desirable, the compounds they’re associated with are still important to the overall experience of the wine, Lee said.

That didn’t surprise Deborah Parker Wong, global wine editor for SOMM Journal and an expert in the science behind wine. No one yet has succeeded in perfectly mapping wine’s immensely complex molecular structure, which is the first step to recreating it, she said.

“I don’t see it happening in my lifetime,” she said.

While Wong is fascinated by what Ava is doing — she hasn’t tasted the product — she’s not willing to call it “wine.”

“It’s never going to hold a candle to wine for me,” she said.

The Ava founders admit they haven’t perfected their technology or their recipes yet — they’re not ready to try re-creating that 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay — but they’re still experimenting. In addition to their moscato, they’re working on two types of dry red wines, and one dry white, which they say are “very close” to being ready. And they’re working on getting approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to sell their products — though they may not be legally allowed to label them as “wine.”

Meanwhile, Ava’s wine is better for the planet, Lee says. It takes between 300 and 1,000 liters of water to make one liter of wine using California grapes, he said, but it takes just five to 10 liters of water to make a liter of wine using corn alcohol. And, unlike 100 percent of the traditional wine Ava tested in its lab, test-tube wine contains no pesticides.

The Ava founders see their work as part of a broader movement — helping society make what they see as an inevitable shift toward synthetic food.

“Our vision for what 500 years from now looks like is: all food is made in this way,” Lee said. “The food we make on Mars when Elon Musk takes us there will be made in this way. We’re not going to grow grapes on Mars.”

Source : The Mercury News

4 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic

Amanda MacMillan and Julia Naftulin wrote . . . . . . .

The organic food industry is a booming business, and with the recent sale of natural-foods giant Whole Foods to Amazon, it’s expected to grow even larger in the near future. While some consumers buy organic because they believe it’s better for the environment, even more do so for health-related reasons, according to one 2016 survey.

What, exactly, are the health benefits of going organic? That depends on who you ask and which studies you consult. But if you do choose to buy organic foods, here are some science-backed bonuses you’re likely to get in return.

Fewer pesticides and heavy metals

Fruits, vegetables and grains labeled organic are grown without the use of most synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow some synthetic substances to be used.) While such chemicals have been deemed safe in the quantities used for conventional farming, health experts still warn about the potential harms of repeated exposure.

For example, the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been associated with developmental delays in infants. Studies have also suggested that pesticide residues—at levels commonly found in the urine of kids in the U.S.—may contribute to ADHD prevalence; they’ve also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men.

A 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organically grown crops were not only less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticides, but because of differences in fertilization techniques, they were also 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys.

More healthy fats

When it comes to meat and milk, organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than conventionally produced products, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Organic milk tested in the study also had less saturated fat than non-organic.

These differences may come from the way organic livestock is raised, with a grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors, say the study’s authors. They believe that switching from conventional to organic products would raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing overall calories or saturated fat.

No antibiotics or synthetic hormones

Conventional livestock can be fed antibiotics to protect against illness, making it easier for farmers to raise animals in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The FDA limited the use of certain antibiotics for livestock earlier this year, but loopholes in the legislation still exist. And with the exception of poultry, conventionally raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones, so they’ll gain weight faster or produce more milk.

But traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, says Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. Drug residue is believed to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance, he says, and organic foods—which are produced without antibiotics—“are intrinsically safer in this respect.” Organic meat and dairy also cannot contain synthetic hormones, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

More antioxidants, in some cases

In a recent six-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown onions. They also theorized that previous analyses—several of which have found no difference in conventional versus organic antioxidant levels—may have been thwarted by too-short study periods and confounding variables like weather.

The research was “very well done,” says Guy Crosby, adjunct associate professor of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. But he points out that this specific study “takes just one aspect of phytochemicals and shows they can be improved under organic conditions.” The question of whether organic foods are truly more nutritious is still debatable, he adds. “Had the researchers chosen to measure a different vitamin or mineral, they may have found a different result.”

The bottom line

Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, and whether they’re really worth the extra cost is certainly a matter of choice. “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. “If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list—those with the highest pesticide residues.” If people eat eggs, dairy and meat, she also recommends buying those organic.

Halden says that vulnerable groups—including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people suffering from allergies—may benefit the most from choosing organically produced foods. He also points out that a strictly organic diet can still be plenty unhealthy: “Eating too much sugar and meat and too few vegetables is risky, regardless of whether the shopper picks from the conventional or organic grocery selection,” he says.It’s also important for consumers to make educated decisions about why they choose to buy organic, says Crosby—and not to get hung up on individual studies that haven’t been supported by additional research. If you’re trying to reduce exposure to pesticide residues, organic is a good choice, he says. “On the other hand, if you’re buying them because they’re more nutritious, the evidence doesn’t broadly support that,” he says.

Source: Time

Video: What Makes Fried Chicken So Delicious

Battered and deep-fried chicken might be one of the most delicious foods ever.

But what makes this summer picnic staple so tasty?

It all comes down to the chemistry of frying.

In the latest Reactions video, learn how the delicate dance of fat at high temperatures leads to a crispy, savory summer snack.

Watch video at You Tube (5:11 minutes) . . . . .

Video: Why Olive Oil is Awesome

Whether you sop it up with bread or use it to boost your cooking, olive oil is awesome.

But a lot of chemistry goes on in that bottle that can make or break a product. Take the “extra virgin” standard: Chemistry tells us that a higher free-fatty-acid content leads to a lower grade, less tasty oil. And those peppery notes are thanks to antioxidants that contribute to olive oil’s healthy reputation.

Check out the video for more olive oil chemistry, including how to keep yours fresh and how to best use it to give your food a flavor boost.

Watch video at You Tube (4:50 minutes) . . . . .