Using the seaweed extract, sodium alginate, and a solution of salty water you can create something that looks like worms in seconds.
Normally alginate is used as a food thickener for things like jellies, jams and pie fillings. That doesn’t mean you can’t play with it to make noodle-like “worms” and tiny spheres that look like caviar in just seconds.
We will be featuring this activity in the Science Studio during the month of October as part of our Spooky Science event. So stop by and ask a Team member for a demonstration.
If you want to make instant worms at home you’ll need to pick up a supply kit online. You can buy insta-worm kits on Amazon or if you are a teacher a kit large enough for a classroom. Keep in mind that these kits most likely do not contain food grade supplies, so don’t eat anything unless the included instructions say it’s safe!
If you want to make edible worms like we did, it will take a lot more work than just buying one of the kits above.
As with any kind of cooking project, make sure you start with safe ingredients and clean tools. A google search for sodium alginate will turn up all sorts of suppliers of raw materials and kits to get you started. I’ve had success with the materials from Modernist Pantry. You will need food grade Sodium Alginate, Calcium Chloride, a digital scale capable of measuring down to 0.1 grams and a blender of some sort. Optional items include, squirt bottles, flavorings, food coloring, straining spoons, and a few large bowls.
Once you have your supplies your first step is to mix up the alginate solution. A good starting point is 2.0 grams of alginate powder in 250 grams of water.
The tricky part here is that you can’t just pour the powder into the water. If you do, it will form a clumpy mess on the surface of the water that is really difficult to mix up. Remember, the alginate is used to thicken foods, so that’s exactly what is does when it gets wet. What you want is a nice mixture, and it’s nearly impossible to do that by hand. If you use a classic blender, I would double or triple the size of the batch. Small batches tend to just splatter the alginate on the sides of the bender where it sticks and does not really blend with the water. I’ve had great success with an immersion blender especially when working with both small and large quantities.
At this point you can add some food coloring or flavoring to the solution. Clear worms are pretty cool as well since they are hard to see while in the water, but amazing when you pull them out.
The next step is the activation or gelling solution. Dissolve 2.0 grams of calcium chloride in 500 grams of water. Prepare this in a large bowl. This is where you will drip or squirt the alginate solution to create the worms.
Finally, prepare a large bowl of plain water with a strainer of some sort. Before you eat the worms you will want to rinse them in plain water to remove calcium chloride solution. It has a very salty taste.
To make your worms just squirt the alginate solution into the calcium chloride solution. The worms should form instantly! The outsides will be gelled while the insides will still be liquid. The longer you leave the alginate in the chloride solution the more it will gel. After a few minutes the whole worm will turn solid – inside and out.
Experiment with various colors, make worms by squirting a solid stream of solution around the bowl, or make spheres by careful dripping, create “slugs” by carefully squirting a stream along the side of the bowl.
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