Does the Way You Cut a Vegetable Change Its Flavor?

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iStock

Knowing the difference between a julienne cut and a chiffonade is an easy way to impress guests at dinner party. But does preparing your vegetables with fancy—or not-so-fancy—knife work really affect the way they taste? Your gut instinct may tell you no: a vegetable's flavor will remain the same whether it’s diced, sliced, or grated. According to a story from NPR, however, that instinct would be off-base. Chefs and food scientists both agree that the cut of a vegetable has an impact on its final flavor, and the reason why can be explained with a bit of chemistry.

The chemical makeup of a piece of produce is what makes it taste so flavorful. When a vegetable is crushed or sliced open, those ruptured cells release enzymes that trigger a chemical reaction, which to some diners may take the form of a pleasant taste or aroma.

Charles Forney, a physiologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, told NPR that every fruit and vegetable has a different response to being cut. Tomatoes, for example, produce a fresh, pungent scent when first sliced open. According to Forney, this chemical reaction isn’t too different from the one behind the smell we associate with freshly cut grass. The finer a vegetable is cut, the more enzymes it releases, resulting in a more intense flavor.

This is especially noticeable when chopping up onions or garlic. If you take a whiff of a clove of garlic while it's still whole, you won’t smell much. But slice into it, and that strong garlic scent will be hard to miss. That’s due to a specific type of enzyme called alliinase. Alliinase converts molecules into allicin, a sulfurous, unstable compound that breaks down into other stinky compounds that cling to our breath and skin. More allicin is produced each time you chop up a garlic clove, so a dish with roughly chopped chunks of garlic will actually taste milder than if the garlic has been finely diced. Grating garlic, on the other hand, creates a flavor so strong that it may be enough to turn off even the most extreme garlic lovers.

Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are also examples of vegetables that grow more intense in taste the more you cut them. If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation when eating finely chopped cabbage, you can thank a chemical reaction for creating compounds that contain sulfur. So even though diners do eat with their eyes first, the prettiest cut may not always end up being the tastiest for some.

[h/t NPR]

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Geoview/iStock via Getty Images

When it comes to physical activity, few animals have as maligned a reputation as the sloth. The six sloth species, which call Brazil and Panama home, move with no urgency, having seemingly adapted to an existence that allows for a life lived in slow motion. But what makes sloths so sedate? And what horrible, poop-related price must they pay in order to maintain life in the slow lane?

According to HowStuffWorks, the sloth’s limited movements are primarily the result of their diet. Residing mainly in the canopy vines of Central and South American forests, sloths dine out on leaves, fruits, and buds. With virtually no fat or protein, sloths conserve energy by taking a leisurely approach to life. On average, a sloth will climb or travel roughly 125 feet per day. On land, it takes them roughly one minute to move just one foot.

A sloth’s digestive system matches their locomotion. After munching leaves using their lips—they have no incisors—it can take up to a month for their meals to be fully digested. And a sloth's metabolic rate is 40 to 45 percent slower than most mammals' to help compensate for their low caloric intake. With so little fuel to burn, a sloth makes the most of it.

Deliberate movement shouldn’t be confused for weakness, however. Sloths can hang from branches for hours, showing off some impressive stamina. And because they spend most of their time high up in trees, they have no need for rapid movement to evade predators.

There is, however, one major downside to the sloth's leisurely lifestyle. Owing to their meager diet, they typically only have to poop once per week. Like going in a public bathroom, this can be a stressful event, as it means going to the ground and risking detection by predators—which puts their lives on the line. Worse, that slow bowel motility means they’re trying to push out nearly one-third of their body weight in feces at a time. It's something to consider the next time you feel envious of their chill lifestyle.

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Are Any of the Scientific Instruments Left on the Moon By the Apollo Astronauts Still Functional?

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images

C Stuart Hardwick:

The retroreflectors left as part of the Apollo Lunar Ranging Experiment are still fully functional, though their reflective efficiency has diminished over the years.

This deterioration is actually now delivering valuable data. The deterioration has multiple causes including micrometeorite impacts and dust deposition on the reflector surface, and chemical degradation of the mirror surface on the underside—among other things.

As technology has advanced, ground station sensitivity has been repeatedly upgraded faster than the reflectors have deteriorated. As a result, measurements have gotten better, not worse, and measurements of the degradation itself have, among other things, lent support to the idea that static electric charge gives the moon an ephemeral periodic near-surface pseudo-atmosphere of electrically levitating dust.

No other Apollo experiments on the moon remain functional. All the missions except the first included experiment packages powered by radiothermoelectric generators (RTGs), which operated until they were ordered to shut down on September 30, 1977. This was done to save money, but also because by then the RTGs could no longer power the transmitters or any instruments, and the control room used to maintain contact was needed for other purposes.

Because of fears that some problem might force Apollo 11 to abort back to orbit soon after landing, Apollo 11 deployed a simplified experiment package including a solar-powered seismometer which failed after 21 days.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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