Sunday 18 August 2019

'Salt and vinegar grass' discovered Down Under

Spinifex is a drought-resistant grass found in Australia
Spinifex is a drought-resistant grass found in Australia

Mark Molloy

Salt and vinegar flavoured grass may sound like a bonkers Willy Wonka creation, but the real thing has been found growing in a remote part of the Australian desert.

Researchers were analysing samples of spinifex, a type of drought-resistant grass endemic to Australia, when one of the team licked their hand and instantly recognised a familiar taste.

"We were doing late night experiments, handling specimens of that species," University of Western Australia (UWA) biologist Matthew Barrett told ABC.

"Someone licked their hand at some point and tasted that flavour."

Dr Barrett, along with UWA PhD student Ben Anderson, discovered eight new species of spinifex in Western Australia, with the unique flavour coming from droplets on the grass that "sparkle in the sunlight".

"It looks pretty inconspicuous when you first get to it, but if you look at it very closely it has very, very minute sparkling droplets on the stems," he said. "When you lick them, they taste like salt and vinegar chips. But I wouldn't recommend going out and licking spinifex.

"We have discovered quite a lot of new species tucked away in little, out-of-the-way pockets that no one's ever really looked at before."

The study was published in the journal 'Australian Systematic Botany'.

Irish Independent

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