It's not for everyone but many love the taste of salt and vinegar chips.
Possibly the best flavour of chips in the world is now available freely in Australia. The spinifex grass species apparently has a striking resemblance in flavour to salt and vinegar chips. Research scientist Mathew Barret and Ph.D. student Ben Anderson ere surveying a spinifex-rich area in Perth when the exciting taste was found.
"We were doing late night experiments, handling specimens of that species," Dr Barrett told the ABC.
"Someone licked their hand at some point and tasted that flavour."
The salt and vinegar taste of the chips was found by accident. Spinifex is a uniquely Australian grass that is known to be resilient, surviving even the worst droughts. There are around 64 different kinds of triodia or spinifex species across Australia. Genetic revisions are changing the taxonomy of the spiky grass plants, which is why the team from the University of Western Australia were reviewing the plant’s taxonomy.
The taste is fairly unexpected from a species that essentially looks like grass. However as Barrett explains, once you get closer to the plant you notice small sparkling droplets on the stems. These tangy droplets either remain as a viscous liquid or can crystallise after the plant has dried.
It's not uncommon for grass to secrete sticky sugars, proteins, and salt from the micro-hairs on the leaf's surface. This is what the researchers believe these sparkly droplets are on the plant’s surface.
The humble looking plant has many different uses: the plant’s resin has been used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years as a kind of adhesive, last year researchers discovered how to extract nanocellulose to make sturdy, natural latex and now this iconic plant has proven to have one more use, as an adequate substitute for salt and vinegar chips.
However, whether or not Spinifex replaces the good old salt and vinegar chip is yet to be seen.
Image: This is a photograph of Triodia hummock grasslands at Karijini National Park, Western Australia. The green hummocks are Triodia pungens R.Br. (Soft Spinifex); the blue-grey hummocks are Triodia basedowii E.Pritz. (Hard Spinifex or Lobed Spinifex). The trees in the background are Eucalyptus and Acacia species, Hesperian