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11 Cool Facts About Frozen Yogurt

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When frozen yogurt hit the commercial food scene in the U.S. in the late '70s and subsequently boomed in the early 1980s, it was a huge hit with health-conscious, workout-obsessed Americans who were thrilled to have a lower-fat alternative to ice cream. Even though its popularity chilled out in the '90s and aughts, frozen yogurt has returned on the scene en masse in the last few years in the form of the soft-serve shop with an extensive toppings bar. But however you enjoy your froyo, you’ll be sure to enjoy these cool facts about it almost as much.

1. IT DOESN’T JUST COME FROM COWS.

Like regular yogurt, cow’s milk isn’t the only milk that is used to make frozen yogurt. The milk of sheep, goats, and water buffalo are sometimes used in the froyo process in the U.S., while camel and yak varieties are available in the Middle East and Western China, respectively.

2. IT’S FAIRLY NEW IN TOWN.

Yogurt itself has been around for ages, with origins in the Middle East and India about 5000 years ago, but the idea to freeze it, at least as far as we know, came about fairly recently: The first commercial brand, Frogurt, was introduced in New England in the early 1970s, and was served in scoops, in the style of ice cream.

3. IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR MANUFACTURERS TO FOLLOW THE POPSICLE MODEL.

Yogurt giant Dannon was among the first to jump on the blossoming trend, with its 1979 release of “Danny,” a packaged, fruit-flavored frozen yogurt pop on a stick with a chocolate coating. Dannon's pop became the first perishable frozen treat to be distributed nationwide.

4. TCBY HELPED REPLACE THE SCOOPS WITH SOFT-SERVE.

In 1981, Arkansas’s TCBY changed the yogurt game when it began offering yogurt in soft-serve format, dispensed by a machine at the point of sale. When TCBY started out, the acronym stood for “This Can’t Be Yogurt,” but a 1984 lawsuit by competitor I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt inspired the company to create a back-ronym, so now it stands for “The Country’s Best Yogurt.” And they're still making froyo innovations, like being the first to offer Greek frozen yogurt, dairy-free, and vegan options.

5. DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK. (IT'S BEEN HERE FOR YEARS.)

It’s true that frozen yogurt experienced a lull in popularity for a couple of decades, but it has surged right back, and then some! In 2012, sales of frozen yogurt were $194.9 million, with 121 million servings of frozen yogurt sold—totally decimating its peak sales of $25 million in 1986. (Adjusting for inflation, $25 million would be about $54.3 million in 2016 dollars, so it has more than tripled its earnings today when compared to 30 years ago.)

6. IT HAS BEEN HONORED WITH ITS OWN MONTH-LONG CELEBRATION.

As of 1993, June is National Frozen Yogurt Month in the United States (in close pursuit of its obvious natural rival, National Ice Cream Month, which happens in July). It also has the more specific National Frozen Yogurt Day on February 6 (not during a month many of us crave frozen treats, weirdly). Many yogurt shops celebrate the day, as well as the month, with free froyo and discounts.

7. THE COMPETITION IN THE FROZEN YOGURT MARKET IS STIFF.

Although TCBY ruled the froyo roost for decades, it’s no longer number one, despite recent attempts to rebrand itself with new décor and updated self-serve machines. As of 2015, the front-runner is California-based Menchie’s, with 13.5 percent of the market and 300 U.S. locations—which is no mean feat, considering it was only established in 2010. TCBY trails with 10.8 percent of the market and 518 locations, and then Yogurtland, sweetFrog, and Red Mango round out the top five.

8. YOU COULD BUY IT DRY.

Originally, frozen yogurt was made using—unsurprisingly—real yogurt as a base. But these days, it can begin in powder form, which is then mixed with water or some other liquid and poured into a soft-serve machine.

9. IT’S NOT NECESSARILY MADE OF YOGURT.

Although yogurt, when unfrozen, is regulated by the FDA and requires a Live and Active Cultures seal, frozen yogurt is not, and it legally may or may not contain live cultures, so you may want to check your labels.

10. IT HAS POWERFUL ALLIES.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan clearly can’t resist froyo—she was responsible for the installation of the first frozen-yogurt machine in the Supreme Court cafeteria. As such, Kagan joked that she’ll be remembered as the “frozen yogurt justice” in the annals of history. Not that that’s a bad thing, Your Honor.

11. IT REACHED NAMESAKE STATUS.

And it’s not just Justice Kagan who has a soft spot for the soft-serve. Continuing its adorable theme of naming each version of the Android OS after a dessert, Google’s Android 2.2 release, unveiled in 2010, was codenamed “Froyo.” How sweet.

All images via iStock.

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How to Choose the Best Watermelon
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Buying a watermelon is an experience one can grow to resent. The 92 percent moisture content of Citrullus lanatus means you're basically buying a giant ball of water. On the plus side, they're delicious and packed with enough vitamin C and D to keep you from getting scurvy.

But how to select the best of the batch? Food blogger Emma Christensen over at kitchn recently offered some advice, and it involves a little weight-training. When you examine watermelons in the produce section of your local grocery, you want to look for the heaviest one for its size. The denser the fruit, the more juice it has. That's when it's at its most ripe.

Next, check the underside of the watermelon for the "splotch." That's the yellow patch the watermelon develops by resting on the ground. If it's a creamy yellow, it's also a good indicator of being ripe.

Finally, give the underside a little smack—not aggressive enough to draw attention from grocery workers, but enough so that you can determine whether the watermelon sounds hollow. If it does, that's good. If it sounds dull, like you're hitting a solid brick of material, it's overripe; put the watermelon down and slowly back away from it.

If you're not confident in your watermelon evaluation abilities, there's another option: Local farmers markets typically have only choice product available, so any watermelon you pick up is likely to be a winner. You can also ask the merchant to pick one out for you. Pay attention to what he's doing and then try to emulate it the next time you're forced to choose your own produce.

[h/t: kitchn]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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