Tasting with your nose?

Published on October 11th, 2011
Tasting with your nose?

You probably think that tasting is something you do with your tongue, right? Well, here’s a little experiment that’ll teach you otherwise.

Here’s what you’ll need:
* a sliced pear
* a sliced apple
* a nose (yours)
* a mouth (yours as well)

The experiment goes like this: hold the pear under your nose while eating the apple. Guess what you’ll taste?

The secret’s pretty simple: what we call taste is actually produced by your mouth and nose working together. And the fun part is all in the nose.

True taste (or gustation) is just the bitter, sweet, salt, sour and savoury detected by the taste buds. But flavour is produced by the smell of food passing from our mouths into our nasal cavities, where we detect it with our sense of smell. If you chow down on a chocolate, your tongue tells you that it’s sweet, just as it would for honey.

Mess with the system – remove or block the smells, or replace them with something else – and you can seriously confuse your senses of taste and smell.

In the apples and pears experiment, your taste buds register the apple as sweetly acidic using its sweet- and sour-detecting taste buds, but you can more strongly detect the smell of pear under your nose than the flavour of the apple rising through the back of your throat (pears have a stronger smell than apples).

Have you ever heard someone say, “You eat with your eyes first”? If you have, it was probably a chef on one of those cooking shows.

We like to believe that the nose knows…