Heinz has leapt aboard the same extraterrestrial (chuck) wagon as Chateau Pétrus wine and NASA’s homegrown Hatch chilies, with the debut of its “Marz edition” ketchup – a condiment made to its exacting corporate recipe with tomatoes grown under Mars-identical soil conditions here on Earth.
The company enthuses that future travelers to (and settlers on) the Red Planet will have a little taste of home to enjoy on humanity’s remotest picnic ever. But, though corporate money funded it, this ketchup is more than just a publicity stunt. Its tomato harvest was overseen by the Aldrin Space Institute at the Florida Institute of Technology, and the team there added a heaping cup of science to the recipe.
“‘Before now, most efforts around discovering ways to grow in Martian-simulated conditions are short term plant growth studies,’ said [team leader Dr. Andrew] Palmer at Florida Tech. ‘What this project has done is look at long-term food harvesting.’ […]
To demonstrate that the tomatoes could be harvested on Mars, the plants were grown in Martian simulant – Earth-based soil chemically matched to the Red Planet’s regolith – under the same temperature and water conditions as found on Mars. Heinz and Aldrin Space Institute experts analyzed soil conditions, selected seeds and implemented agricultural techniques to ensure the end result was the recognizable taste of Heinz ketchup.”
Heinz has packaged the ketchup in special “Marz edition” bottles, which made the rounds on social media last month. Though not available for public sale, these bottles signify the high corporate standards the “Martian” ketchup cleared.
While it’s great we have a proven ability to grow tomatoes on Mars, the reality is, with our current social stratifications, the vast majority of we earthlings will never make it there. (You’re going to be lonely up there, Elon.) I much prefer keeping the focus on the Earth-side benefits of this experiment: how it pushes the limits of food plant habitats and challenges our understanding of what grows well here – whether it’s tomatoes, or rice, or wheat, or chickpeas. Food is a human right. And while we humans stay earthbound, we need to eat here.