Learned Something New Today

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Sparking Green Beans

on August 9, 2013

To save money and because it tends to be healthier, I bring my lunch to work just about every day. Today, I had about a cup of frozen green beans that I decided to put on a plate and microwave. When bringing veggies, I typically leave them in the container and “cook” them in it. This was the first time that I added green beans without a cover. As you typically hear some sizzling and popping in the microwave – ice melting, etc. – I didn’t pay attention for the first 20 seconds. However, I figured since I had the microwave at 70 percent, it shouldn’t really do that. Looking in, I saw tiny, silver sparks emitting from my veggies as though there were little pieces of aluminum foil among the greens. Slightly panicky, I took out my plate and saw small black burns on the vegetables where the sparks came from:

My burnt green beans

My burnt green beans

Naturally, this event peeked my curiosity and my trusty Google told me that apparently, I’m not crazy or the only one who this has happened to. Green beans along with some other veggies like green peppers and carrots have low moisture levels. Along with that, they contain multiple minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium. The microwaves reflect from the metals in the veggies, causing the sparks and burning to appear.

If you use the defrost setting, you might avoid the phenomenon. Cutting the food in smaller pieces and covering it should also help. It is said that the sparks won’t harm your vegetables but they may not cook all the way, and the sparking could damage the microwave’s magnetron – the vacuum tube that generates the energy to heat your food.

In case you’ve never experienced this, here is a short video to show you what the sparks look like; mine weren’t as impressive but just as unbelievable:

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