Fruit is naturally sweet and juicy, but is there a way to make it even sweeter and juicier? Find out in this sweet science experiment.
Use ¼-cup dry measuring cup to scoop ¼ cup sliced strawberries onto paper towel–lined plate labeled “Control.”
Use ¼-cup dry measuring cup to scoop another ¼ cup sliced strawberries into small bowl. (Save any remaining strawberries for another use.) Add sugar to bowl and use spoon to stir until well combined. Transfer strawberry-sugar mixture to paper towel–lined plate labeled “Sugar.”
Make a prediction: Will the plates of strawberries look the same or different after 15 minutes? Why do you think so?
Observe your results: After 5 minutes, observe the plates of strawberries. What do you notice? Repeat observing your strawberries every 5 minutes until 15 minutes have passed.
Use a fork to taste 1 strawberry from each plate. What do you notice about their flavor? Their texture?
(Don’t read until you’ve finished the experiment!)
In the Young Chefs’ Club lab, after just 5 minutes the strawberries tossed with sugar looked moist and shiny. After 15 minutes, the strawberries’ juices had soaked into most of the paper towel. The control strawberries didn’t change much, even after 15 minutes. They left just a small mark of juice, right below where they sat on the paper towel. Our tasters noticed that the strawberries tossed with sugar weren’t just sweeter; they were also much softer than the control strawberries. How do your observations compare with ours?
All fruits, including strawberries, are made of microscopic plant cells—and those cells are full of water. When you add sugar to fruit, the sugar pulls water from inside the fruit’s cells to the outside of the fruit’s cells. This process is called osmosis (“oz-MOE-sis”). That’s where all the liquid on your “Sugar” paper towel came from! In addition, when cells lose a lot of water, they become limp and soft. That’s why the strawberries you mixed with sugar had a softer texture than the control berries.
In cooking lingo, this technique is called maceration (“mass-er-A-shun”). You might macerate fruit with sugar to make fruit salad or a juicy topping for strawberry shortcake. In other recipes, you’ll toss fruits (or vegetables) with salt, which does an even better job of pulling water out of cells, before cooking or baking with them.