CLOSE
The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
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

The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
iStock
arrow
fun
Watch Astronauts Assemble Pizza in Space
iStock
iStock

Most everyone enjoys a good pizza party: Even astronauts living aboard the International Space Station.

As this video from NASA shows, assembling pizza in zero gravity is not only possible, it also has delicious results. The inspiration for the pizza feast came from Paolo Nespoli, an Italian astronaut who was craving one of his home country’s national dishes while working on the ISS. NASA’s program manager for the space station, Kirk Shireman, sympathized with his colleague and ordered pizzas to be delivered to the station.

NASA took a little longer responding to the request than your typical corner pizzeria might. The pizzas were delivered via the Orbital ATK capsule, and once they arrived, the ingredients had to be assembled by hand. The components didn’t differ too much from regular pizzas on Earth: Flatbread, tomato sauce, and cheese served as the base, and pepperoni, pesto, olives, and anchovy paste made up the toppings. Before heating them up, the astronauts had some fun with their creations, twirling them around like "flying saucers of the edible kind,” according to astronaut Randy Bresnik.

In case the pizza party wasn’t already a success, it also coincided with movie night on the International Space Station.

[h/t KHQ Q6]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The duckweed with the translucent rounded top is Asian watermeal; the rest is another duckweed species, Northern watermeal.
CandyStore.com
arrow
Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Christmas Candy in Each State, Mapped
CandyStore.com
CandyStore.com

For those who didn’t get their full candy fix last Halloween, the holiday season provides plenty of opportunities to indulge. From candy canes to chocolate Santas, there’s something for everyone—but before splurging on sweet stocking stuffers, check out the interactive map below. Created by bulk candy retailer CandyStore.com, it breaks down the top three favorite candies in each state.

To determine which Christmas treats were the most popular, the team at CandyStore.com surveyed over 50,000 customers and spoke with major candy manufacturers and distributors. Not surprisingly, candy canes were a hit in numerous states, including Washington, Delaware, Vermont, Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. California, Nevada, West Virginia, and Kansas residents, however, got into the seasonal spirit with peppermint bark. North Dakota residents preferred chocolate Santas. And Alabama, Michigan, and Utah liked Jelly Belly’s Reindeer Corn.

Christmas candy sales in America are projected to rake in nearly $2 billion for confectioners, according to an estimate provided by the National Confectionary Association. Spend your holiday bonus wisely on treats everyone will appreciate by checking out CandyStore.com’s full results below.

Source: CandyStore.com

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios