This week, students learned about preserved foods through a fun exploration and tasting activity! We started out with a simple question: what exactly is food preservation, and why do we need to do it? Everyone had a different story to tell about food that had gone bad, from cake left in the fridge to bread in a Ziploc bag. We learned about why food spoils in the first place- as some kids suggested, bacteria, germs, and mold spores in the air all work to break down food and make it inedible. We even explored how some germs are good and some are bad- like the bacteria in yogurt that helps our digestive system.
Students tried to guess different ways to preserve food: many kids suggested washing food before storing it, putting food in glass containers and sealing it, or putting it in the fridge. Ultimately, we learned that there are a few ways that people have been preserving food- drying, heating, cooling, pickling, cheese-making or butter making. We went on a tasting adventure through these different methods, starting out with dried fruit.
Through prunes, dried apples, pineapples, peaches, and apricots, students tasted the difference between fresh and dry fruit, and investigated why taking the water out makes the products last so much longer (ten months versus a few weeks). The key, it turns out, is that dehydrating fruit means that even bad mold, yeast, or bacteria can’t grow.
Moving on to pickling, we learned about how salty water is also used to dehydrate products like cucumbers or olives. After giving everyone a chance to try an olive, it was clear that opinions differed widely on its taste! While some asked for more, others were surprised at the rather unfamiliar taste. Students in some classes also helped to make butter by shaking a glass of cream, and also were able to look at fresh cheese to see how even milk can be preserved.
All in all, we explored together the different methods that can be used to preserve food, and how those processes impact how that food looks or tastes. We definitely have some more appreciation for all of our canned and preserved foods now!