Tabletop Pyrotechnics for the New Year

Today is New Year’s Eve so it seems appropriate to show you a whimsical parlor trick for tabletop pyrotechnics. You need only a candle and some fresh peel or rind from an orange, tangerine, grapefruit, or lemon to create citrus flares for your own miniature fireworks. The short video shows the technique: quickly pinch the peel between your thumb and index finger to squirt an aerosol of volatile citrus oils into the candle flame, creating a temporary but impressive flare.

Citrus flares for tabletop pyrotechnics. Hope you find it a peeling!

Home-grown tree-ripened fruit usually works better than fruit from stores. Commercial fruit comes with a coat of sealant (I think) to preserve the fruit during shipping and handling, and the sealant impedes fluid release when you pinch the peel. Commercial fruit may also have less oil in the skin if picked before fully ripe.

Look carefully at the flares in the video, and you will see how the aerosol of oils spreads from the pinched peel and around the flame. Droplets shoot out from the peel with a surprising amount of force and, as they disperse, some of them circulate with convection currents around the flame. The dispersion, mixing, and combustion processes are interesting to watch, and provide a fun new way for the kids to play with their food!

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