Easter season would not be complete without Peeps, the sickly sweet marshmallow treats that have been rotting kids’ teeth for more than 50 years.
Although the sugary snacks have several claims to fame – such as their astounding array of colors that now include bright blue and shapes that go way beyond Easter chicks – their main claim to fame is their shelf life.
Peeps supposedly stay fresh, sweet and edible for an incredible two years. That is, of course, if you keep them wrapped in their plastic, far from greedy little fingers – and out of the Arizona sun.
We wanted to test Peeps longevity through a Tucson summer so we stuck them on a stick in a tree last March, right before Easter 2010.
You’ll be amazed and perhaps even surprised at what we found.
First off, Peeps do not melt in the Arizona sun. They instead become hard and dense, not unlike those sugar roses on wedding cakes you’re not supposed to eat but still try to every time.
Although we did not take a bite of the hardened Peeps, and placed them high enough in the tree to avoid the dogs’ gaping maws, we did poke them repeatedly with a stick. Even the thorns of a mesquite branch could not penetrate the hardened marshmallow rocks.
Despite not melting in the sun, the harmful ultraviolet rays did, however, do a number on their color. By early April, the Peeps’ bright blue was already becoming a somber cornflower color.
By mid-May, every Peep head had a bright white bald spot and a light blue bottom. Come June and the blue was totally gone, replaced by a white that was slowly turning yellow on some and becoming speckled with brown bird poop on others.
Then the rains came. Never mind what Tucson heavy downpours can do to the intersections – you should see what rain does to Peeps.
The hardened marshmallow becomes a sullen goop that slowly yet surely drips off the tree. The first Peep fell during the season’s first rain and was promptly gobbled by one of the aforementioned dog maws. A few others stayed put in the tree where they steadily disintegrated.
We were able to snag at least four fallen Peeps before the dog did and transfer the experiment to flat piece of rock.
More rains came. More Peeps plopped.
It took the captured Peeps until August to fully melt off the rock, leaving only four small greasy dabs with a bit of leaves stuck in the smear of marshmallow residue.
The Peeps that were still partially alive in the tree eventually turned a putrid brown and became wrapped in spider webs, a move that at least took care of the feasting ants that had gleefully discovered them sometime back in May.
By the end of the summer, it was if the Peeps had never existed – although we will never forget the experiment’s most enlightening conclusion: some people have way too much time on their hands.