If I spot a blade of interesting-looking grass, my first inclination isn’t to wonder what it tastes like. But a group of researchers in Australia recently stumbled upon two new species of grass with a peculiar flavor that some liken to a favorite snacking combo: salt and vinegar chips.
“The taste, it’s different. It’s hard to sort of quantify,” says Benjamin Anderson, a plant biologist who recently graduated from the University of Western Australia and is the lead author on a paper that describes the new plants, which are part of a group known as Spinifex grasses. “I got a tangy sensation and taste.”Anderson and his colleagues were collecting specimens in the Pilbara, a dry and mountainous section of Western Australia, when they stumbled upon the new species. Spinifex grasses mostly grow in spikey humps called hummocks that resemble overgrown, green hedgehogs from far off. If they grow old enough, some spinifex humps will roll outwards to form what looks like a prickly, mouth-bleeding doughnut.The two new species don’t look all that different from their 70-some cousins, which crowd most of the Australian continent — except for a spray of glistening droplets around their leaves. “We saw it sparkling in the sunlight and just go — oh, that’s interesting,” Anderson says.But no — they didn’t think to munch on the grass just then.