Dr. Universe,

How are gummies made?

— Hayden, 11, Webb City, Mo.

Gummies can come in all different shapes and flavors. Maybe you’ve had gummy worms, gummy bears or peach rings.

It turns out that gummies require just a few simple ingredients. That’s what I found out from my friend Connie Remsberg, a pharmacist at Washington State University.

She said making gummies requires a little gelatin, water, a mold and some help from a grown-up.

If you want to make gummies at home, you can warm up about ½ cup of water on the stove. Add a 3 oz. package of flavored gelatin (which contains sugar). Then add one tablespoon of unflavored gelatin.

Mix it all together until it is dissolved and ready to come off the stovetop. It’s very important to ask a grown up for help and to be super careful when working around hot surfaces. A good scientist — or gummy maker — always puts safety first.

The gelatin is made up of things called proteins and peptides. They come from animal bones or cartilage. When you dissolve gelatin in water, the tiny proteins act kind of like spaghetti and get all tangled up together. Between the tangles, there is space to hold sugar and water.

Next, you will need something to shape your gummies. A silicone mold is handy because it won’t melt when you pour in the warm mixture. Some stores sell molds with shapes like little bears built right in. Be sure to spray the silicone mold with nonstick cooking spray before filling in the shapes.

If you don’t have a silicone mold, you can spray the bottom of a metal pan and pour the mix into a thin layer. Later, you can use cookie cutters to cut different shapes from the gummy slab.

After you have your mix in the mold, put it in the fridge until the gummies form. Oh, and if you want to make a vegan version of gummies, you might use agar agar powder, which comes from seaweed and works as an alternative to gelatin.

Remsberg is very curious about compounding — or how pharmacists can combine different ingredients together to create a medication that’s just right for a patient.

She told me that sometimes pharmacists will create gummies that contain a person’s medicine to make it easier to take. Gummy vitamins are just one example. The body needs 13 different vitamins so some people will take a vitamin gummy in addition to eating fruits and vegetables.

One other fun way to experiment with gummy bears — even the kind you buy from the store — is to soak them in different liquids, or solutions, such as water, saltwater, vinegar or bubbly soda water. Let them sit for a few hours, or overnight, and observe what happens.

Do they shrink? Get bigger? Explode? Okay, spoiler alert, they won’t explode. But tell us what you discover and why you think it all happened at Dr.Universe@wsu.edu.

Have a science question? Ask Dr. Wendy Sue Universe, WSU’s resident science cat and writer, by email at Dr.Universe@wsu.edu.

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