Tasting chlorophyll

Sam Beale sib at brown.edu
Thu Feb 22 15:33:21 EST 1996


In article <199602221516.HAA19726 at net.bio.net>, jperry at UWCMAIL.UWC.EDU wrote:

> There's no way I would suggest to my students that they attempt to taste 
> chlorophyll by chomping on leaves. This sounds typical of a high school 
> teacher who was probably educated as a zoologist or general biologist.
If s/he 
> had been educated as a botanist and taken a plant anatomy course, or plant 
> taxonomy, or probably a bunch of other botany courses as well, that teacher 
> would have known that there is at least a significant probability that the 
> student would ingest raphides crystals or alkaloids that could land the 
> student in the emergency room and the teacher in the courtroom.
> 
> Jim Perry
> UW Fox Valley
> jperry at uwcmail.uwc.edu

I think that this response is a bit hesterical and uninformed.  The
original poster didn't specify what kind of leaves were used, but I would
choose something like spinach, which has lots of chlorophyll and, although
it does indeed have at least one toxin (oxalate), has been eaten by people
for many years without apparent ill effect.

The bigger problem with the "experiment" as described is that there is no
way of determining whether the taste that is reported is due to
chlorophyll or to any of the innumerable other compounds present in the
leaf.  Given how sensitive our sense of taste is, a chlorophyll
preparation would have to be purified to a very high degree before we
could be confident that its taste was due to the chlorophyll itself.

Back to the drawing boards.



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