Edible Growth is a bite-sized “mini vegetable garden with crispy plants and mushrooms”. It is also a 3D food printed project created by Eindhoven-based food designer Chloé Rutzerveld whose passion lies in rethinking the ways food is produced and consumed. The concept behind Edible Growth involves a specially printed outer casing made from dough that contains “edible soil” and various organisms (yeast, seeds and spores). Five days after printing, the plants and mushrooms germinate while the yeast ferments the solid inside into a liquid, after which they start to grow and poke through the holes of the casing – at which point it is ready to eat.
Most 3D food printers print using raw materials, which must be processed into a puree, powder or paste so that the printer can successfully extrude the food substance. However, in the case of fruit and vegetables, the process causes a significant decrease in nutritional value and loss of texture. Consequently, it is difficult to print healthy food and most 3D printed food is made from dough, sugar or chocolate. On her website Rutzerveld states that with the rise of more high-tech food and new production methods, consumers are becoming increasingly more concerned about their health as well as the quality and ‘realness’ of their food. This is why Rutzerveld has made it her mission to find a way of 3D food printing healthy, functional food.
Rutzerveld is not just proposing a way of using the 3D food printer as an extruder but wants to refigure the printer as not only a tool to enable natural growth but also to enhance it. Her design is a visualisation of how an edible ecosystem could look and opens up the possibility of a new food category – nutrient rich food that is eaten while still “in growth”. The design is currently a concept as current food printing techniques are not advanced enough and would involve several years of research and development. Nonetheless, there are many people interested in it’s potential. Rutzerveld’s main aim is to stimulate and provoke scientists, food technologists and designers to think differently when creating future food products.
Rutzerveld’s concept is not only a way to make a unique and new type of health food but she also sees how it can have environmental benefits. She foresees the possibility of home growth foods drastically reducing the need and strain on agricultural land. At the same time she believes post harvest and harvest labour would become unnecessary and that farmers would be the providers of raw materials, not the fruits and vegetables themselves. As a result the consumer would become the farmer and will be more involved in the production of their food, without spending a lot of time gardening.
Edible Growth began in 2014 and has already been showcased in many countries around the world including the US, Asia, Canada and many countries in Europe. It has also been featured in several websites and magazines such as Frame, Mold and Vice. Four years on and the interest in Rutzerveld’s concept is by no means declining. Edible Growth is currently being displayed in Brazil’s Museum of Tomorrow and it is also featured in Rutzerveld’s book which is being launched this month (October 12th) – with world wide availability from early 2019.