What’s the one vegetable that astronauts want in space?


When astronauts are on the International Space Station, is there one vegetable that they want, crave or wish that they could grow?

Everyone has been told from a young age that vegetables are important to everyone’s health. Even astronauts will need to have a vegetable or vegetables when they are in space. Now, on the International Space Station, astronauts are learning how to grow vegetables. Is there one vegetable that they crave more than others?

What’s the one vegetable that astronauts want in space?, photo Cristine Struble

Have you ever watched The Martian? As Matt Damon tried to survive on Mars, he grows potatoes. While this idea might seem a more science fiction than science, the idea of growing vegetables in space is becoming reality. But, those starchy, potassium dense potatoes aren’t the vegetables that astronauts are craving.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with some of the food scientists at NASA. These scientists are designing experiments to help grow fruits and vegetables in microgravity. Growing plants in microgravity isn’t as easy as it seems. Since I’m not a scientist, I can’t explain in detail the techniques and principles, but simply stated it is a complex process.

Over the past several years, the astronauts on the International Space Station have been growing various types of leafy greens. Various leafy greens have had success on the International Space Station. These vegetables offer both a different taste and nutritional benefit for the astronauts. Still, those leafy greens are the one vegetable that the astronauts want.

photo Cristine Struble

According to the NASA food scientists, astronauts have asked for peppers. Specifically, hot peppers have been requested. The request isn’t just because a few astronauts prefer spicy foods. There are two reasons for the pepper request.

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First, when astronauts are in microgravity, they can experience sinus pressure/congestion. Anyone who has eaten a spicy peppers knows that sometimes hot or spicy peppers can make your nose run. If the astronauts could grow spicy peppers, they could have a natural sinus decongestant. Right now, NASA food scientists are working on a way for astronauts to grow peppers on the International Space Station.

Also, when astronauts are in space, their sense of taste is diminished. Just like on an airplane, food seems a little less flavorful. Additional spices, or in this case peppers, can make food more palatable. The peppers can make the pre-packaged foods taste a little better.

Growing vegetables in space is a reality. As the food scientists perfect growing leafy greens, perfect peppers will be the next vegetable to grow. Looks like astronauts might be getting the vegetable they want, peppers, in the near future.