Inverse: The Most Popular Holiday Treat Reveals a Weird Evolutionary Mix-Up

Candy canes are by any measure a strange sweet. Brittle and unwieldy, theirs is a shape of candy you only see once a year — to signify … a shepherd’s crook? A crutch to get you through the loneliest season? Or just a convenient shape to hang from a fir branch?

Stranger still is the flavor: peppermint. This invigorating tidal wave of a flavor is as much a sensory experience as a taste — one that defies the usual holiday hat trick of sweet, fatty, and cinnamon-y. What is the secret to this beloved treat? You can find an answer in its chemical composition, a receptor on our tongues, and evolutionary tactics.

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