How do children like their broccoli? School children in Wageningen solve a piece of this puzzle in the Restaurant of the Future.
Joep studies at the Montessori School in Wageningen. Together with the other 89 pupils from primary 6, 7 and 8, he is present for a broccoli tasting experiment. The experiment forms part of the research work conducted by Nancy Holthuysen (Food & Biobased Research) for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. Its aim is to get children to eat more vegetables. Therefore, more insight is needed as to what children like to eat and why.
All that is required of the Montessori pupils is to group the broccoli according to a tastiness scale. Earlier this week, adults had been present for tasting too. Their task was more complex, as they had to rate the broccoli based on a long list of characteristics: from sweetness to sourness, from crunchiness to dryness, from potato-like to cabbage-like, just to name a few.
By linking both sets of preferences, a measurable picture emerges as to what children like to eat, explains Holthuysen. The pancake-broccoli described by Joep de Bruijn, for example, seems to be the least bitter of the six broccoli varieties. Megan Jansen also finds number 364 most tasty. 'It tastes a little funny, I don't taste this often.' To her, broccoli is 'not the yummiest food'. With the exception of this day, perhaps. 'Any more questions? I want to go on eating.'
These taste experiments are merely a part of the research work. In the laboratory, broccoli varieties are examined in detail to find out what makes them taste the way they do. Holthuysen: 'We analyze them for Vitamin C, anti-oxidants, sugar, aroma substances and glucosinolates. The last of these are bitter substances.' All these could eventually point the way towards a broccoli type which appeals to children. There is still a long way to go, though. The tasters, however, have been given their reward: apple-flavoured ice-cream.