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The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
Andrey Zharkikh, Flickr // CC by-2.0

Meet the World's Smallest Fruit

Original image
The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
Andrey Zharkikh, Flickr // CC by-2.0

by Aliya Whiteley

It's easy to be impressed by big things. The blue whale, the African elephant, and the giant sequoia are all easy to spot, if you ever get lucky enough to see them in person. But sometimes the smaller things—particularly the things that you can barely see with the naked eye—get overlooked.

Even so, there can be no doubt that the Wolffia globosa is an impressive plant, even if it would look like a tiny speck in the palm of your hand. Better known as Asian watermeal, it's the world's smallest flowering plant, less than one-third of an inch wide at its largest.

A kind of duckweed, Asian watermeal grows quickly, spreading across the surfaces of bodies of water at an incredible rate, floating without needing roots, stems, or leaves to survive. Mainly it reproduces asexually, but very occasionally it flowers, and from the flowers comes the smallest fruit in the world, known as an utricle [PDF].

You'd be hard pressed to feel full on a meal of utricles, given how tiny they are, but they are edible, as is the whole plant (although separating the fruit from the plant might be a bit of a challenge). In fact, duckweeds are already cultivated in Southeast Asia for food and are high in protein; duckweed has been vaunted as a new and plentiful food source for us all, given how quickly it multiplies. Apparently, it tastes a little like watercress.

This mighty microplant is also being investigated as a possible energy source. As a biofuel, it would be carbon neutral, as it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Additionally, it could be used to purify water, balancing levels of phosphorus and nitrogen; it can also pull both arsenic and cadmium from the environment.

To cap it all, Wolffia has been investigated as a possible food source for long-term space travel. For a speck of a plant that's easy to miss, it has some big potential.

If you'd like to give it a taste, here's a recipe from Recipes Thai Food for a watermeal omelette.

Original image
The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
Courtesy Maxie B's
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Food
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Courtesy Maxie B's

While it's difficult to improve upon perfection, bakers are constantly putting new twists on cupcakes. These bakeries showcase the latest trends and the classic style we all know and love.

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The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
Something Something Soup Something
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This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
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Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

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