As Dara O Briain investigates the future of our eating habits, we take a look at five ways the food we eat could evolve in years to come…
Sprouts that taste like sweets
They might be bursting with goodness, but the much-complained-of bitterness of brussels sprouts means that they often get pushed around the Christmas dinner plate. But a pill that sweetens even the sourest flavours could change all that.
Eating the fruit of a plant known as Synsepalum dulcificum (or “miracle berry”) makes food taste sweet thanks to a chemical called miraculin, which attaches itself to our taste receptors, changing the way they react to what’s being consumed.
Tomorrow’s Food presenter Chris Bavin was sceptical until he tested it on a group of market traders who were asked to bite into a lemon before and after eating the berry — with amazing results: “After the berry, they were tasting lemons as if they were sherbet lemons.”
In Japan it’s being used to fight sugar addiction; but as it only grows in West Africa, it’s expensive. So scientists are experimenting with extracting the miraculin and putting it into tomato plants to make it more easily available.
Cake that won’t make you fat
Have you ever fantasised about eating as much fat as you like without putting on weight? Research at Newcastle University suggests that the chemical alginate, found in brown seaweed, could stop our bodies absorbing fat.
It was put to the test by a group of truckers, who ate a fat-laden diet for a month while taking seaweed pills before every meal. They all lost weight. “Each guy lost an average of one-and-a-half to two kilos,” says Bavin, “and they all said that, if anything, they had indulged themselves even more.”
Trials are ongoing, but Bavin believes it won’t be long before we see seaweed alginate tablets in our health food shops. “The substance is naturally occurring, and appears to be completely healthy and safe. The only issue might be that people see taking these pills as a licence to overindulge.”
With land increasingly at a premium it was only a matter of time before someone thought about trying to make our plants work harder. Meet the TomTato: a combined tomato and potato plant developed by Thompson & Morgan after more than 15 years of research. To create the “veg plot in a pot”, two young plants are grafted together. It works because they’re both members of the nightshade family, though other veggie combinations may be possible in the future.
Pizza that lasts forever
We happily snack on cold, day-old pizza, but how would you fancy one that was three years old? That’s what the US military has produced to keep those on active service fed and happy. The secret is glycerol — a colourless, odorless, viscous liquid that repels bacteria — combined with dried mozzarella and pressure-cooked meat. Chef Angela Hartnett tried it for Tomorrow’s Food and was pleasantly surprised: “It didn’t remind me of something I’d eat in Naples, but it tasted like a high-street-chain pizza the day after you bought it. If you were in the middle of the desert it’d be an extremely comforting taste of home.”
Pasta you can print
Biscuits cut with lasers? Designer pasta at the touch of a button? It sounds like science fiction, but the rise of the 3D printer means this once-futuristic vision has become reality. Feed the ingredients into a 3D food printer and it churns out the product. But Angela Hartnett was dubious after watching one such machine produce spiral pasta of her own design and tasting a computer-produced biscuit. “The pasta was OK, but the biscuit tasted like sawdust. It’s an enormous piece of equipment for not much return.”
Tomorrow’s Food is on Monday 23rd November at 9pm on BBC1