Why beets and kale can catch fire in the microwave

Originally published at: Why beets and kale can catch fire in the microwave | Boing Boing

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I noticed peas in the microwave will sometimes get a little spark.

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yet not so much available iron as convoluted history would have us believe…

  1. Many vegetables, including spinach, kale, dark leafy greens — and beets — are high in iron.

There are lots of odd myths associated with the available iron which spinach (and kale) can supply. The 1892 missed decimal point error did occur, but it was corrected rather soon there-after; the problem is that while spinach has roughly the same amount of iron content as …lettuce, it also has a lot of oxalic acid which has the effect of making it dietarily unavailable. Oh, and Popeye probably wasn’t promoting spinach for its miss-presumed dietary iron content but rather its vitamin A.
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a man aged 19-50 would in fact need to eat at least eight cans of spinach everyday to get his required level of iron,…

kinda dubious that ‘as much iron as lettuce’ would be the source of much of a microwave phenomenon; at least relative to the fun grape/microwave experiment

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I’m not sure I buy this explanation. It sounds more like plasma generation from electrolytic conduction through narrow conduction points, like with split or touching grapes.

Also, there is no metallic iron in beets or vegetables. It’s all dissolved iron ions in solution. His explanation requires there to be particles of metallic iron in the food, which is nonsense.

ETA: Ha! Semi-jinx, @theophrastus !

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I doubt that “charge buildup” is part of it – there’s nothing in the beet that would rectify. However, iron (being ferromagnetic) soaks up a huge amount of energy from rapidly alternating magnetic fields (microwaves, no?) and would produce hotspots. Quite possibly steam, which in turn would be conductive enough to sustain short arcs in the intense electric fields.

Fun question.

As for Popeye, his original wonderfood was … garlic. Sponsors got it switched to spinach for the cartoons.

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yeah i am skeptical of this bit about iron. like you can make plasma-balls from grapes cut in half bc they can be just the right size to resonate with the microwaves, no iron required.

More microwave-fire studies needed (like, could you dose up extra iron into a low-iron potato or something to prove it’s really the iron that boosts the pyrotechnics?)

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Neither should be cooked in a microwave in the first place. Beets are great roasted, and even better in a hearty borscht. Kale is perfect for hiding the ice on a 1980s restaurant salad bar or lining the interior of your compost container.

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Popeye originally gained his powers from rubbing the head of Bernice, a magic Whiffle Hen

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Have you tried kale chips? They will probably change your mind.

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Beets and Kale sounds like an electronic music duo and Fire in the Microwave is the first EP they dropped.

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Why? Are they better at lining my compost container than fresh kale?

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No, they are like potato chips in terms of tastiness but much healthier. They are the superfood for people who hate superfoods.

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You know, I had no idea kale chips were this easy. Thank you for posting! I’ve been using my oven a little more for things like this lately (yay pandemic?) and I will try this out very very soon!

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Once, when I worked in an office with vending machines, I microwaved a ham and cheese sandwich. Only afterward did I discover that the package held a foil mustard pouch under the bun - no arcing was observed. The charred taste ruined it completely.

I hate mustard too, but the pouch was not breached.

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Where beets come from:

image

Where they end up:

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+

ETA: if you are microwaving raw fresh vegetables and you have the option of a stove to use, you either really don’t like vegetables, or perhaps cooking…

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That’s a turnip. Which might explain why:

if you were expecting beets…

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