Before Fridges, Russians Used To Keep Their Milk Fresh With Frogs

Before the invention of refrigeration, preserving food took a great deal of innovation, patience, and hard work. Of course, salting, pickling, smoking, and canning could be used to preserve meats and produce, but dairy products were particularly tricky to keep fresh. Springhouses were structures built directly over cold springs, so that the cool running water underneath would provide the proper temperatures for storing cheese, milk, and butter. Many homesteads relied on springhouses to store their milk-based products, but others simply used frogs.

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Several tales of Russian lore tell of folks dropping frogs into buckets of milk in order to keep the liquid safe for consumption. It was believed that the cold-blooded temperature of the amphibians would transfer to the milk. This was hardly a scientific conclusion, but still, the old wives' tale was commonly believed, and so became the subject of the folk tales. While the body temperature of frogs likely had nothing to do with keeping milk fresh, the method curiously seemed to work. Today, the choice of froggy milk or no milk at all seems like a no-brainer, but before refrigeration, it was probably easier to turn a blind eye towards Kermit the Frog taking a dip in your morning glass.

The reason it worked

It turns out that the belief about keeping a frog in your milk to keep it fresh, indeed, had plenty of merit. But, of course, it wasn't because of the frog's body temperature. Back in 2012, scientists at the American Chemical Society found that the secretions produced by the skin of brown Russian frogs contain loads of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Overall, scientists found 76 potentially medical-advancing peptides in the slimy skin. Those antibacterial properties surely made a difference in how bacteria formed and grew in milk and, thus, kept it drinkable for longer periods of time without refrigeration.

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Please don't go out and put frogs in your milk (who knows what they'll do in there); that's not what we're suggesting here. But, surely, you can see the absolute brilliance of nature and the ingenuity of mankind when living day-to-day wasn't as simple as it is now given modern technology and icy-cold fridges.

More wild food lore

The food world is full of old wives' tales, like the frog in the milk bucket. Just like this one has some truth in it, many others are rooted in fact, even though the details are often stretched or discarded completely. For example, most Americans of certain generations are familiar with the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Sure, apples are full of nutrients and make a great choice for a snack on the sweeter side, but in reality, a mix of several different fruits and vegetables is what provides optimum nutrition. The belief that spinach will make you strong (thanks, Popeye) hits a similar vein; spinach is a nutritional superstar, but eating it alone won't result in mountains of muscles. It takes a whole body health and fitness plan for that.

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Many parents still tell their kids that a piece of swallowed chewing gum will stay in their gut for years, but, no, it will make its way out just like any other food. Coffee stunting kids growth? Sorry, moms and dads, if you want to keep your pre-teens away from Starbucks, you'll have to find another method. Too much caffeine may make anyone jittery and unable to sleep, including kids, but there's no proof of it stopping growth in its tracks. Of course, you could always fib and tell them their iced lattes contain frog milk.

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