What do we know about taste?
Turns out that many of us were taught incorrectly about how our sense of taste work. (and possibly our visual and olfactory senses as well). Many of us in North America were taught about the ‘taste map’ of the tongue where certain areas were responsible for one of the four tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter. It is now understood that all of these taste sensations arise from all regions of the oral cavity that include the tongue, soft palate, and epithelium of the pharynx and epiglottis.
Each taste bud contains approximately 100 taste receptor cells that can detect compounds in each of the five basic tastes. The fifth being the now recognized taste sensation known as umami, a Japanese word to describe the taste sensation of amino acids or savoriness. The umami taste came about with the invention of MSG or glutamic acid (the dubious ingredient that makes non-fresh food taste good).
A recent study suggests that the taste bud may also have receptors able to differentiate the taste of fatty acids and maybe even metallic and water tastes. Taste like many of our senses is quite complex in that it engages our sense of smell and feel including thermal receptors. We don’t often think about this however we are also able to experience sensations of the previously mentioned fattiness and metallic nature and also dryness (tannins- astringent), prickliness or hotness (spicy peppers), coolness (peppermint – spearmint), numbness (again from hot peppers) and even recent science suggests a receptor for calcium.
Take a minute next time you are eating your favorite meal and reflect on the incredible sense that we call taste.