Improving Your Taste Discernment

How really discerning is your sense of taste?

Are your food and beverage prefer- ences based upon real or imagined flavor distinctions?

Are you greatly influenced by advertising about a product's quality?

Your taste buds are grouped in tiny bumps called papillae which make your tongue feel rough.

There are about 245 taste buds to each bump in a young person.

Gradually with age, this number drops to below 100.

Some taste buds are scattered on the inside surface of the cheeks and on the epiglottis and on the soft palate.

There are actually only 4 basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

Salt buds are along the sides of the tongue and toward the front (as are the sweet buds), while sour ones are toward the back.

Bitter taste buds are at the back of the mouth itself.

Heated food stimulates your taste buds, whereas cold desensitizes them.

For example, before taking a bitter medicine, use a small piece of ice to chill the back of your tongue and you'll hardly taste the medicine.

Also, hot, sweetened coffee tastes sweeter before it cools.

Since you taste and smell food at the same time, a blending of the two senses (see "Exercise -- Developing Synesthesia") takes place.

For example, when you say an apple "tastes good," you refer largely to its odor.

If you were blindfolded and had your nose stopped up, you'd have trouble identifying raw mashed apples from raw mashed potatoes.

People also eat with their eyes a lot! Purple mashed potatoes tasted terrible to most people even though the purple food coloring had no taste at all! At a scientific conference concerning the sense of taste, 100 attendants were given cherry- red, but lemon flavored lollipops, and almost all of them noticed no flavor difference from its color.

Do you think you can discern the difference between brewed and instant coffee?

or the difference between name brands of coffee?

or between the same instant coffee with or without dissolved oxygen?

Tea tasters that submit quality reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration test about 500 teas a week.

After swooshing a sample around in their mouth, a tea taster spits it out and compares its taste with other teas of the same type.

As an exercise, take a measuring spoon and dissolve a quarter teaspoon of salt in one glass of water and a half teaspoon in a similar glass of water.

Sample each by sipping, swooshing in the mouth and spitting it out.

Notice the difference?

Do the same with lemon juice and water; then sugar and water; then instant coffee and water.

Vary the percentages and work blindfolded with friend to see if you can distinguish slightly higher and lower levels when given them.

Then combine the tastes and distinguish the same higher or lower levels when in combination with each other.

The next time you eat a meal, take the time to savor the flavor combinations in your mouth.

Sample new food dishes, fruits and vegetables to enhance your taste experience.

Imagine yourself in the country of each food's origin.

Involve yourself in each new sensory experiment and consciously BE with the experience.

While holding your nose and closing your eyes, have an assistant put diced up carrots, apple, potato, turnip and onion in your mouth for identification.

Next, taste creamy things -- yogurt, ice cream, peanut butter, creamy potatoes, sour cream and pudding.

Then try a teaspoon of milk, orange juice, coffee, wine and water.

How acute is your taste without your eyes and nose?

Could you discern a mashed apple taste while smelling a fragrant pear?