Science

Salt and Vinegar Chip-Flavoured Grass Found in the Australian Outback

The delicious native grass in question is called spinifex.
15 November 2017, 11:11pm

Scientists working in in the Australian Outback (described as "finger-lickin' scientists" in perhaps one too many news stories on this discovery) have made a breakthrough so delicious it may genuinely be prompting the Nobel committee to rethink the criteria for its coveted prize.

Although... maybe they don't need to.

According to former Nobel committee member Bengt Norden, the Nobel is given for an achievement that will "open a door or open our eyes" and help us "see things in a different way.” It must also have “a substantial impact for the field... [and have an] almost… paradigmatic importance or breakthrough importance."

Does discovery a native Australian grass that tastes exactly like salt and vinegar chips not tick every single one of these boxes? And, like so many other great Nobel Prize-winning breakthroughs (i.e. penicillin), it was made entirely by accident.

"We were doing late night experiments," the University of Western Australia's Dr Matthew Barrett told the ABC. "Someone licked their hand at some point and tasted that flavour."

Perhaps not the whole story of why two scientists were eating grass late at night in a university lab? Perhaps. But that's besides the point. We're here to talk about this delicious grass, which is called spinifex.

It's an incredibly hardy plant, able to withstand even the toughest droughts, and it's widespread—covering about 30 percent of Australia's Outback. According to Dr Barrett and his PhD student Ben Andersonit, the salt and vinegar flavour comes from tiny droplets of water found on the grass' younger stems.

And this isn't even the only gamechanging scientific breakthrough spinifex is at the centre of. Over at the University of Queensland, Dr Nasim Amiralian is working with the grass to try and manufacture the thinnest, and strongest, condoms in the world. Turns out, not only is spinifex drought resistant and delicious, it also contains nano fibres that can be used to make latex and rubber less prone to tearing.

So, the question here is obvious: Is a potential research collaboration between Dr Amiralian and Dr Barrett on the cards? Is the world ready for salt and vinegar flavoured condoms? Only time will tell. But you know, when the time comes, the Nobel committee will come calling.