Are the gold flakes on food really edible? How can this be? Gold is a metal, right? Metals surely can’t be digested, right? What gives? Why would anyone use such a thing in food?
Relax and let us explain, for today we will be exploring the use of gold flakes on food and in fluids.
What are Gold Flakes on Food?
Gold leaf has long been considered a delicacy in many different cultures throughout the world – past and present. Edible gold leaf is precisely what it says on the tin – an edible form of gold. This usually takes the form of edible gold flakes that are used to garnish and dress a type of food.
Though gold is often called upon in the western world, both gold and silver are common elsewhere. In South Asia, for instance, there is a type of silver leaf known as silver vark which is used to decorate sweets and confectionery. Edible gold sheets, however, seem to take more precedence in Europe and elsewhere in the west.
Edible gold leaf is indeed made from real gold – gold leaf flakes ought to be made from pure gold or thereabouts (with a minimum of 22 karats) – or sometimes even a mix of gold and silver for those who just can’t make up their minds.
Contrary to popular belief, pure gold leaf really is inedible, classified as biologically inert enough not to be absorbed by the digestive system on its way through the body. Keep a close eye on your toilet and you might see the edible quality gold leaf floating in the bowl – bonus points for anyone willing to fish out the floating gold flecks.
Despite the fact that gold leaf sheets are edible, they actually contain no nutritional value whatsoever and are essentially flavorless. This precious metal is used for little else than simply garnishing and providing a meal with a sense of decadence.
Next time you think about having some gold-flaked chicken wings, think about what those edible gold leaves are doing for you. The ancient Egyptians would have you believe in their inherent spiritual qualities. In this day and age, you are allowed to think for yourself and choose your own destiny.
Uses of Edible Gold Leaf
Loose leaf of this kind is typically used in food decoration. You might find it used as an ingredient in some places, but, seeing as gold dust holds little to no nutritional value and is essentially flavorless, this is relatively uncommon.
The idea of gold leaf, then, is more or less aesthetic, to foster a luxurious and glamorous touch to a piece of food. Especially in flake form, the gold glimmer that can occur when said flakes are sprinkled all about the dish is deemed desirable and something indeed to lust after.
This approach, while often utilized in the manufacture of candy, is also used in cocktails, liquors, and other alcoholic drinks. One of the more notable examples is the legendary Goldwasser, a strong root and herbal liqueur with supposed tonic properties.
Obviously, the most prominent characteristic of this drink is the fact that there are small flakes of 23-karat gold suspended in it. The beverage also contains cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, lavender, thyme, coriander, and juniper, all with a syrupy viscosity.
Funnily enough, the origin of the drink is believed to be in the fact that such tonic alcohol solutions were used by artists for gilding – one of the central gilding techniques.
Alchemy was at its height in the late 16th century when the original Goldwasser appeared, a practice that held gold to have many desirable medicinal properties. While modern science disputes this, the fact still stands that pure gold is one of the few metals that can pass through a human’s digestive system without causing any issues.
Gold leaf is not, however, limited to booze and sugary treats. They have even found their way to fast food menus, in items like the gold leaf bun, etc.
Substitutes for Gold Leaf
Maybe pure gold leaf is a little out of your budget or perhaps you are simply averse to the mainstream options. In any case, there are substitutes for you to try that hopefully will not break the bank as much.
The most cost-effective alternative to gold leaf is imitation gold leaf which is usually made from a brass alloy mixed with copper and zinc. If properly controlled, such a mixture can create tones that very much resemble the brilliant luster of gold flakes. In these circles, this imitation gold leaf has been called Schlag metal, composition metal, or Dutch meal.
Storage of Gold Leaf
Gold leaf is incredibly delicate – this is especially the case for an edible gold leaf which is specially prepared to be digested. Thus, extra care should be taken when handling it.
The booklets of gold leaf sheers should be stored in an airtight jar in a cool and dry place, kept well away from warmth and dampness. Similarly, gold flakes should be stored in the same conditions. If adhered to, this will mean these gold flakes can last indefinitely. They are made from metal, after all.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling better informed as to all the ways gold flakes and gold leaf can be used in food and drink and how it has been utilized throughout the various cultures of the world.
FAQs Gold Flakes on Food
Indeed you can. It is in fact considered quite a delicacy in several different cultures around the world. Such decadence is especially popular in Europe and elsewhere in the western world, though it is not only limited to these places. The use of a silver leaf called silver vark is popular in South Asia, especially India (or at least it was before the vegetarianism of the country and the ethically inhumane methods of manufacture refused to see eye to eye).
Indeed, they are. Yes, funnily enough, gold is actually edible, though do not expect to get much in the way of nutritional value from the consumption of gold flakes in this or any other variety. The ancient Egyptians might have you believe that there is some physiological and spiritual benefit to consuming gold in this way. Heck, even alchemists in late 16th-century Europe would have suggested so too. Though modern science now says otherwise, you must also consider the fact that of all the metals, gold is one of the few that can safely be digested by mammals.
Not all that much honestly. Gold leaf and gold flakes are edible by mammals, though despite this they boast very little in the way of nutritional value or physiological benefit. Sure, an ancient Egyptian or a late 16th-century alchemist might have you think otherwise, but modern science says so. There is something to be said, though, for the fact that gold is one of the only metals that can be safely digested by mammals. Other than this, however, it does not have a whole lot else to boast about as the idea behind consuming gold is more as a display of luxury and decadence – material benefit so to speak.
Real ones! Yes, the gold that is used to make gold flakes is in fact real gold. Though pure gold is preferable, the minimum is actually set to 22 karats (around 91%) purity.