Scientists have a history of accomplishing what was once thought impossible, be it walking on the moon, splitting the atom or alleviating pain and disease. But now they may have discovered something that will eclipse all that has come before; scientists are on the verge of making chocolate better! A team lead by Dr. Siela Maximova from Pennsylvania State University has pieced together the genetic code of the cacao tree, and not just any cacao tree but the Criollo variety that is widely recognised to produce the very best chocolate. Because of its poor disease resistance, Criollo is almost entirely ignored in favour of hybrid varieties that yield more – if inferior – beans, but Maximova et al hope their work will enable the development of new, elite strains of cacao (News.com.AU).
Meanwhile, here is someone who is taking the chocolate maker’s art way too literally. Jean Zaun of Fredericksburg in Pennsylvania uses a mixture of dark and white chocolate, food colouring and confectioner’s glaze to recreate famous works of art, including the frames, in a deliciously edible form. Her subjects have included the works of Van Gogh, Munch and Da Vinci, as well as a portrait of Ozzy Osborne commissioned by his wife. While the chocolate artworks are edible, Zaun believes they should be souvenirs rather than snacks. “They are meant to be consumed by the eye, not the stomach.” Zaun Explained (Daily Mail).
And the misuse of materials won’t stop there, at least not if Dr. Peter Eisner of the Fraunhofer Institute gets his way. Concerned that meat consumption is both unhealthy and bad for the environment, Dr. Eisner has started looking for ways to supplement or replace animal products with vegetable equivalents. His first success is a milk substitute derived from lupins that can even be used to make cheese, meanwhile co-worker Daniela Sussmann has extracted a protein from the seeds gives low-fat sausages more of the sensation of their unadulterated competition. Eisner reckons that our ever growing appetite for meat could one day be disastrous, arguing that the resources needed to produce 1 kilo of meat could instead yield 80 to 100 kilos of fruit or vegetables (Softpedia).
I know what my first thought was when I saw the headline 'Weed Dating'. Unfortunately it doesn't involve that kind of weed. This is a take on the popular speed dating model - except instead of meeting for a few minutes in a bar, you meet in a field, and pick weeds. Participants weed a row with a potential romantic interest and then move on to another row and another partner. While there hasn't been much romantic success, the idea has created enthusiasm among Farmer's Associations around the country. You can read more about weed dating here.