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Make Halloween Fun With This Cool ‘Bleeding’ Celery Trick

This easy science experiment will help kids understand exactly what vegetables are made of.


Ever watched a vegetable ‘bleed’?  Teaching kids about food and cooking is a lot more fun when you throw some eye-popping science into the mix. This classic shows kids how celery stalks draw up water through their tiny tubes—xylem, to use the scientific term. And it can very easily be dressed up for Halloween with the selection of a spooky color scheme: red.

Mix red food coloring into water (use as many drops as you need to hit the hue you’d like), pour into a clear pitcher or tall glass jar, and set the freshly cut end of a head of celery (or a few stalks) into the water. Over the next 20 minutes or so, the celery will suck the food coloring up like a straw, filling the xylem so that tiny dots of “blood” will appear at the very top of the stalk—making the celery bleed. If you cut into a piece, or break one and tear it along the length of the ribs, you can show your kids how the red dye has traveled through the inside of the stalk.

Bleeding vegetables might not seem to have anything to do with cooking, say, a really good pot of soup. But there’s something to be said not only for showing how magical food can be—it bleeds—but on a science level, the mechanism on display in this experiment is exactly what allows plants to grow in the first place. Without the xylem sucking up water out of the earth and up to the leaves, whether in celery or whatever other plant, there wouldn’t be any vegetables to cook with. So it’s a fun Halloween-party gimmick, and it demonstrates how, on a base level, we’re able to have food to cook with at all.

If you want to play with some natural options for your blood, this would be a great moment to forgo food coloring for a plant-based color instead. Both pomegranate juice and beet juice would work just as well as artificial dye. And after the bleeding fun is done, the celery can still be smeared with peanut butter and dotted with raisins—the ants on a log might just bleed a little bit when your kids bite into them.

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