Scientists have found a new species of grass in Australia called sparkling spinifex, which they reportedly accidentally discovered tastes like salt and vinegar crisps. The discovery was made when a member of the research team from the University of Western Australia (UWA), who made the discovery, literally licked his fingers and tasted the unique flavour.
Apart from the sparkling spinifix, scientists also found seven new species of the spinifix grass – which is an iconic and extremely hardy plant that grows in Australia. Spinifix grass is believed to be drought-resistant and has previously reportedly been used as an ancient form of superglue.
"We were doing late night experiments ... handling specimens of that species. Someone licked their hand at some point and tasted that flavour," Dr Matthew Barrett who made the discovery along with his colleagues told ABC North West.
The flavour from the grass appears to come from tiny droplets of liquid that were found on the grass stems. "It looks pretty inconspicuous when you first get to it, but if you look at it very closely it has very, very minute sparkling droplets on the stems," Dr Barret said.
ABC North West reported that the spinifix grass, which grows across around 30% of the Australian outback, has also recently been used to manufacture the world's strongest and thinnest condoms. The grass has also reportedly been used to rehabilitate mine sites.
New discoveries along with genetically revised versions of the grass are altering the classification of the drought-resistant grasses. It was during one such taxonomy revision testing that the research team member discovered the unusual flavour of the new species of spinifix.
In the study detailing the findings, which has been published in the Australian Systematic Botony, the researchers note that the sparkling spinifix's droplets are water-soluble and can be washed off. The droplets can either remain "a viscous liquid" or "become crystalline" after it dried.
The researchers reportedly found the newly discovered species in off-the-beaten pathways. "We are only just discovering how many species there are, where they are, and how they survive, Dr Barrett said. "We have discovered quite a lot of new species tucked away in little, out-of-the-way pockets that no one's ever really looked at before. We had to spend quite a bit of time doing quite detailed genetic work to prove that there are reliable genetic differences between the different species in different areas."