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Do Showers Make Oranges Taste Better? NPR Investigates

Mar 3, 2017

Here are the claims: Oranges taste better in the shower. Eating oranges in the shower will make you happy. The shower orange experience could turn your entire life around.

Thousands of Reddit users have been finding out for themselves. And they have chronicled their adventures on the subreddit /r/ShowerOrange/.

To sort fact from fiction, White House Correspondent Scott Horsley, Science Editor Geoff Brumfiel and All-Around-Genius Sam Sanders stepped into shower stalls at NPR's Washington, D.C., headquarters. (We wanted a diversity of expertise and opinions on the matter.) Then, they ate some oranges. Here's what they learned.

Which kind of orange works best?

Producer Graham Smith supplied three kinds of oranges: navel oranges, blood oranges and clementines. All three appeared to work fine, though the blood orange reminded Scott of the shower scene in Psycho.

You're in the shower with an orange. Now what?

Peel it! Sam tried to put the peels in the soap dish. Geoff dropped his on the floor. (Some Reddit users advocate biting through the skin, but come on, this is NPR. We peel our oranges.)

Does the shower orange taste better?

Geoff: "Yes, absolutely. I ate half the orange in the shower and finished the other half outside the stall. There was a discernible difference."

Scott: "For me, the smell was more intense. The taste wasn't terribly different."

Sam: "The orange did not TASTE better. It did smell better. But I couldn't focus on any of that because I was too worried about whether seeds were gonna clog the drain, where I was gonna put the peels, and what I was gonna do with that orange juice stain on the shower curtain!"

Is there any scientific basis for why showers would make oranges better?

Conclusively establishing why an orange tastes or smells differently in the shower would likely require years of careful study. In the absence of that, we asked Johan Lundström at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia to make an educated guess: "The only thing I can think of is that the heat makes the orange odors more volatile and this, merged with the increase in mucosa humidity, makes the orange odor smell more in the mouth," Lundström said in an email.

Since 90 percent of flavor comes from smells traveling through the mouth to olfactory receptors in the nose, it might also explain why an orange would taste better under a shower stream.

Did eating an orange in the shower change your life?

Geoff: "Not really. But it made me happy in the moment. I'd do it again."

Scott: "I don't think showering with an orange in the privacy of my home would be life-changing. But doing so on national radio certainly was."

Sam: "This event was not life-changing. It was annoying."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Every once in a while here at the show, we read about something that makes us go, what?

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Like eating an orange in the shower. We read about this in VICE.

CORNISH: Now, apparently this is a thing. It has its own active Reddit sub-thread, and it is called Shower Orange.

SHAPIRO: You can read about how this idea got started someplace else. Right now, we want to get straight to the claim that apparently many people make that eating oranges in the shower will change your life.

CORNISH: Of course we had to try it.

SHAPIRO: So three men, three showers and a bowl of oranges.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: OK, Sam Sanders here in the NPR locker room with my colleagues Scott Horsley and Geoff Brumfiel. And we are about to eat oranges in the shower because why not, OK? Let's go.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Cool.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Cool.

HORSLEY: You know, Sam, I actually have worked both in California and in Florida, the two big orange-producing states in the country, and there's a little bit of trash talk between the growers in those two regions. The...

SANDERS: Oh, really?

HORSLEY: ...Floridians say you could run over a California orange with a steamroller, and you don't even wet the pavement. But the California growers say if you want to eat a Florida orange, you ought to get into a bathtub. So this kind of reminds me of that.

SANDERS: Well, we're close right now, yeah. I have one that I'm going to bite into right at this moment. Here I go.

HORSLEY: It's kind of sticky, but you know, it doesn't really matter because we're in the show.

BRUMFIEL: Yeah.

SANDERS: Peeling it, it smells great.

BRUMFIEL: I do have to say it smells kind of different to me in here.

SANDERS: Like, better or worse?

BRUMFIEL: Stronger.

HORSLEY: More intense, yeah.

BRUMFIEL: Oh, there goes the peel on the floor.

SANDERS: Where does go the peel go? This is what I'm cautious about. Like, I'm worried about making a mess in the shower.

BRUMFIEL: Is kind of an anything goes thing. All right, I'm ready for my first bite here.

SANDERS: Oh.

BRUMFIEL: Oh.

SANDERS: The orange tastes good.

BRUMFIEL: Hey, guys, yeah, I think actually this does taste better. I've eaten a lot of oranges in my life. I'm noticing a difference.

SANDERS: This is making a mess.

HORSLEY: Geoff is - what are the physics going on here?

BRUMFIEL: OK, so I actually did check in with some scientists about this. They all think we're making it up, but...

(LAUGHTER)

BRUMFIEL: I asked them to give us a theory. The best theory they could come up with was that oranges release a lot of aerosols. Somehow the humidity of the shower boosts all that.

SANDERS: I just - what I don't understand is why anyone needs to do this. Like, oranges and eating oranges is not that hard.

BRUMFIEL: Sam, I've got to disagree.

SANDERS: Ok.

BRUMFIEL: I'm very down with this. This is cool.

SANDERS: Well, I just, like, spilled some orange on the shower curtain. Are there going to be seeds down...

HORSLEY: You're in the shower, Sam.

SANDERS: No, but, like, are there going to be seeds down the drain?

BRUMFIEL: I have no questions. I just have another, even larger orange that I'm going to try opening now.

SANDERS: Sam Sanders here in the NPR locker room saying, I think this is dumb.

BRUMFIEL: (Laughter).

HORSLEY: I think this is a great way to eat an orange. I would not try this with a blood orange unless you want to sort of recreate the shower scene in "Psycho."

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BRUMFIEL: Great, well I got to finish my shower, so...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BRUMFIEL: You guys just, you know, do your thing. I'm good.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY CASH SONG, "ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL")

SHAPIRO: That is three of NPR's finest - Sam Sanders - count him a skeptic - White House correspondent Scott Horsley, shower orange fan and science editor Geoff Brumfiel. His life has changed.

CORNISH: And if you want to try this at home, please don't send photos.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

CORNISH: But please do tell us about it. We're @npratc on Twitter.

SHAPIRO: And if you would like to let me and Audie know privately, I'm on Twitter @AriShapiro.

CORNISH: And I'm @nprAudie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL")

JOHNNY CASH: (Singing) Bringing my baby back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.