3-D Printed Food and 4 Other Edibles of the Future

PHOTO: The 3-D printing of nuggets with the Foodini.
Natural Machines

Cooking your meals is so last century. Food now makes it onto your plate and into your stomach in a number of ways that never touch a pot, pan or oven.

For a peek at futuristic food trends that are here right now, read on.

3-D Print Everything

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Chef of the future

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PHOTO: Spinach Quiche Dinosaurs made with 3D food printer Foodini.
Natural Machines
3-D Printed Food

Several companies are already experimenting with printing foods like chocolate and pasta by mixing together one or two dry ingredients to use as a sort of edible ink.

The Foodini takes 3-D food printing a leap forward by using stainless steel capsules packed with fresh edible elements and "prints" them out into a wide variety of dishes, including everything from juicy burgers to tasty dips to luscious desserts. Right now, the Foodini only prints up the precooked version of a meal and you have to cook it yourself. But future models will have the ability to print up exactly what consumers crave fully cooked and ready to eat.

Scientists hope 3D-printed edibles have the potential to revolutionize space travel. NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy, based in Austin, Texas, to study the possibility of printing food for space travel.

This would solve the longstanding problem of how to feed astronauts on the long flight to Mars. Could be that the first humans to set foot on the red planet will celebrate by printing up a cake.

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5 Food Trends of the Future Already Here

PHOTO: Meat grown from a lab from cow tissue.
In-Vitro Cookbook
In-Vitro Meat

Earlier this year, Dutch scientists grew hamburger from the muscle tissue of a cow and invited journalists into the lab for a taste test. Reviews were mixed but it's early days for lab-grown meat. If perfected, it could end the suffering of farm animals and help fight world hunger.

Beyond the yuck factor, cost and time are also major stumbling blocks for the technology. The test tube burger took two years and $325,000 to create.

Undeterred, the Next Nature Foundation, posted the In Vitro Meat Cookbook on the fund raising site Indiegogo. Among the questions the cookbook hopes to answer, "Is lab-grown meat kosher?"

5 Food Trends of the Future Already Here

PHOTO: The TomTato is a hybrid tomato, potato plant.
Thompson & Morgan
Tomato, Potato

What would you call a plant that grows tomatoes up top and potatoes down below? A pomato? A tompato? The breeder of just such a plant, British seed catalog Thompson & Morgan, has settled on the name TomTato.

The multitasking plant is not genetically engineered in the modern sense of the word. Instead, it's a hybrid made by grafting the two plants together, the cataloger explained in a statement. Normally, this is a difficult horticultural feat to pull off, but it's possible in this case because the tomato and potato are closely related and share enough genetic traits to happily cohabitate on the same stem.

The ketchup-and-fries potted plant will only be sold in the U.K. for now. It's an annual, which means growers must buy new seedlings every year. A similar plant called the Potato Tom is available in New Zealand.

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5 Food Trends of the Future Already Here

PHOTO: Molecular gastronomy blends science and cooking.
Getty Images
Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular Gastronomy is another culinary trend that borrows techniques from the science lab. By cooking with a pinch of physics and a dash of chemistry, chefs can transform the tastes and textures of food.

For example, you can whip up some apple caviar using a method called basic spherification. This involves submerging apple juice that has been mixed with the chemical sodium alginate into a bath of calcium to form a sphere. The juice transforms into tiny balls with thin, barely detectable membranes that burst in your mouth like fish eggs when you bite into it.

Molecular Gastronomy has led to some pretty interesting ideas. For example, one scientist has whipped up a kind of water bottle that surrounds the water with an edible bubble. Once perfected, it could eliminate the waste from plastic water bottles.

5 Food Trends of the Future Already Here

PHOTO: Soylent is made from 33 ingredients.
Rosa Labs/Soylent
Soylent

Rob Rhinehart, the chief operating officer of Soylent, said many people find food preparation boring and expensive. His answer is a 33-ingredient, grayish-colored liquid supplement designed to provide all the essential nutrients. And it can be customized for preferences, allergies and disease management.

Rhinehart said it's possible to subsist on Soylent exclusively but most of the testers who tried it, drank it for breakfast and lunch, then had a regular meal for dinner. Because it is classified as a supplement rather than food, it is not regulated by the U.S> Food and Drug Administration. The company has 1.5 million pre-orders, and the product ships in January.

Because production is relatively inexpensive and scalable, Rhinehart said Soylent is more than just a convenience. It has the potential to help solve the food crisis in the developing world.

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