Taste is the sense by which human beings and some other organisms can indentify and distinguish between the flavors of food. The apparatus to taste food, which is a cluster of taste receptors called taste buds is found on the tongue which can sense five basic tastes, which are sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, savory Umami). Also formally known as gestation, taste is a basic sense of the human body, the others being the visual, audio, tactile and speech. It is generally believed that different tastes are experienced in different areas of the tongue, but this is a myth as all tastes are experienced at all regions of the tongue. Flavor in the complete sense is not only fully assessed by the taste but also by the smell, the texture and the temperature of the food that is eaten.
Importance of Taste
Taste is important, firstly because it enables one to enjoy food which is consumed. It is responsible for selective consumption of food. Most people prefer to eat more of some foods than others because of their irresistible tastes. Foods that are pleasant-tasting are, in fact, the major cause of obesity in this world today. Unpleasant- tasting food is regarded as aversive and is not consumed at all. Savory, salty and sweet flavors are the most liked and bitter flavor is the liked the least.
A food that is fresh and hygienic usually tastes good, and one that is spoilt tastes bad. Therefore the taste of food also helps one in assessing the freshness of food and protects oneself from consuming spoilt food. However this is not a general rule, as some pleasant-tasting foods may not be as good for health as unpleasant-tasting food. Sweet foods which were considered energetic till a few years ago are now being recognized as the cause of a lot of diseases if not eaten in a controlled manner. On the other hand, bitter gourd which is generally not eaten by many due to its bitter taste is one of the most health-wise beneficial foods.
History of Taste
The concept of taste seems to have been first developed by Aristotle in 350 BCE when he postulated that sweetness and bitterness were the two fundamental tastes. The ancient Ayurvedic system of India has added two tastes like astringent and pungent to the five basic tastes already defined.
Description of Different Tastes
The taste experienced by the human tongue may be any of the basic tastes or their derivative.
Bitter- This is generally considered a very aversive taste and items having this taste can be consumed in very small quantities only. Bitter taste serves the very vital function of preventing ingestion of significant amounts of toxic substances which are fatal. Bitterness in food indicates their spoilage if its not a naturally occurring taste in the substances. For example, the bitter gourd is naturally bitter and is healthy for consumption.
Salty- This is a pleasant taste which is acquired by food when salt (Sodium Chloride) is added to it. Salt is added to all foods that are not sweet as other tastes, i.e. savoriness, sourness and even bitterness need to be mandatorily paired with salty taste to make the resultant food fit for consumption. However, salt is to be added to food in small quantities as in large quantities it not only renders the food that it is added unfit for consumption , but also dangerous for the health as salt in excess quantities is harmful for the cardiovascular system.
Sour – This is a strong taste but recommended for experiencing in limited quantities as it causes acidity and those who have the problem of formation of excess acid in the stomach should stay away from it. Sourness, in small amounts, is known to enhance the flavor of the dishes to which it is added. Juice of citrus fruits like lime, lemon and orange have been always consumed as refreshing drinks or added to various foods to enhance their flavors. Sourness is also known to be beneficial in reducing nausea. Foods that are rancid may acquire a sour taste and such foods not eaten but thrown away.
Sweet – this is one of the most pleasant tastes experienced. When used properly in any dish it has the power to make it taste irresistible and thus compel people have it more. Sweetness is caused in foods due to the presence of significant amounts of sugar in the food which was believed to be energizing.
Hot – this taste refers to chilliness in general.
Umami- this is a recently discovered taste which is given independent status. It Is found in edibles like soy sauce and cheese.
These are the basic tastes though there a number of derived tastes. Sweet-sour, bittersweet, sweet and salty, are all different types of derived tastes.