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The bitter truth

January 26, 2016


The taste with bad reputation is vanishing from our tables. But eliminating bitterness in broccoli or cauliflower comes at a price.

Humans are particularly sensitive to bitterness in food. Such carefulness has a purpose, since the majority of bitter things in nature are poisonous. Children that are more vulnerable are especially reluctant to taste pungent vegetables. Actually, they can feel the bitter taste much better than the adults do.  Not all cultures, however share the same reluctance to this harsh taste. Italians, for instance love radicchio or dandelion in salads, while Asian cuisine excels in combining bitterness with other flavours to create well rounded dishes.

Despite the fact the bitter taste diminishes with age, we still prefer the sweet or the sour one. To please our palette, the agricultural business recently came up with the idea of changing once bitter vegetables and fruits. Traditional yellow grapefruit has almost vanished from the stores, replaced by the sweet pink fruits, while universally hated Brussels sprout has been turned into the mild children friendly variety. But removing bitter chemicals from produce may be good for the sales, not so much for the health. When scientists talk about the benefits of bitter things, for instance dark chocolate or kale, they usually refer to the compounds that make them bitter, the taste we are avoiding so much.

To try and embrace bitterness in the food it is worth remembering, in order to acquire the taste for new flavours, children need to taste new food 10 to 15 times before they start liking it and most probably the adults are the same.

From → Hic Salta

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  1. The bittersweet cure | feminet

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