You Can Taste Garlic By Rubbing It Into Your Feet, American Chemical Society Demonstrates

Rubbing garlic into your feet for flavor, yum. Image credit: kitzzeh/

While "you can taste garlic with your feet" might sound like something that would make you sound unhinged if you were to shout it in the street, it is nevertheless true thanks to a cool food chemistry trick.

It's difficult to test, given how pungent garlic is, but not impossible, as you can see in this video from the American Chemical Society (ACS) below.

Take a clove (and no, this is not like standard recipes where one clove means a whole bulb), cut it in half, and put it into a garbage bag. Place your foot into the same bag, and seal the bag around your ankles, so the smell stays in the bag and doesn't waft up to your nose. Done that? OK, now rub them around like you're marinating a fine piece of chicken. If you have a busy lifestyle, you could adapt the procedure and merely shove the garlic in your shoe.

Now it's time to relax in the knowledge that that delicious garlic taste will be in your mouth in an hour or so. Once your 60 minutes are up, you should begin to taste the garlic in your mouth. Assuming you've done it correctly, and aren't just smelling the garlic due to a leaky bag, congratulations, you are now a foot taster.

OK, we realize this isn't the most efficient method of garlic to tastebud transfer (for that, use the old "cram it into your mouth" method), but it is nonetheless scientifically interesting. So, what's going on?

"It’s not because you have secret garlic taste buds on your feet," the ACS explains in the video. "It’s because the molecules responsible for garlic’s smell (allicin) can penetrate your skin, get into your blood, and travel to your mouth and nose, where you suddenly start to sense the taste of garlic."

Your skin is made up of layers that repel both oil and water (which don't mix) quite well, hence why you don't swell up like a sponge in the bath. However, allicin, the molecule responsible for the garlic smell, has a way in thanks to its chemical make-up. It contains oxygen, which, as the video explains, is good for hydrogen bonding with "watery stuff" and hydrocarbon tails for bonding with "oily stuff".

As such, allicin can slip through your skin, where it gets into your bloodstream and can travel to your confused mouth and nose. A highly recommended trick if you're about to eat somewhere bland. 

 This Week in IFLScience

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