Taste is the ability to respond to dissolved molecules and ions called tastants. Humans detect taste with taste receptor cells. These are clustered together and we refer to them as taste buds. Each taste bud has a pore that opens out to the surface of the tongue enabling molecules and ions taken into the mouth to reach the receptor cells inside. There are four primary taste sensations:
1) SALTINESS Add a salty flavor to your food by using natural Celtic, Himalayan, or sea salts, but go easy on the portions. Even natural salts in large quantities are not actually that good for us. You can also use kelp, dulse, coconut aminos, Bragg’s, nama shoyu (raw soy sauce), garlic “salt,” sun-dried tomatoes, and celery. Saltiness brings out all the other flavors to balance, especially anything sweet, so adding a dash to your chocolate recipes is a good thing.
2) SWEETNESS Balances salty tasting food. At Creative Health Institute we use different natural sweeteners to create this balance. We always lean towards using products with the lowest amounts of sugar possible. There are many choices ranging from plain fruit, Stevia, Yacon, Mesquite, raw honey, agave syrup, palm sugar, dates and other dried fruits such as figs and apricots. Keep in mind that honey is not vegan, and maple syrup is not really raw. Both are better than refined sugar, however, and are packed with minerals and vitamins.
3) SOURNESS Balance salty and sweet flavors with a sour taste. A recipe containing these three flavors will provide great balance. For a sour taste use citrus juices, tamarind, cranberries, pickles, tomatoes, rejuvelac, camu camu, and vinegars. In general, if your recipe has a good balance of the 3 flavors above, it is going to taste yummy!
4) BITTERNESS Generally speaking, bitterness is not desirable in large quantities, but it so happens that bitter foods and herbs can be quite healthy. They can also be tasty in the right quantity.
OTHER ASPECTS WHICH INFLUENCING FLAVOR
A) AROMA Aromatics refer to the sense of smell, not taste, but they are closely related and influence each other. Aroma adds depth to flavors. Here are some aromatic ingredients to use in your uncooking: onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, celery, sweet peppers, ginger or galangal, citrus zest, kefir lime leaves, and lemongrass. Aromatic herbs include parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, etc. (fresh herbs are definitely better in the raw food context!) Aromas tend to come out far more when heating food, but do indeed apply to raw food preparation. Hot peppers and such like those listed below are also aromatic.
B) SPICINESS (HEAT) Spices add a combination of the above flavors, but also add different levels of heat, if not at least a “bite.” Add dry spicy ingredients before marinating to balance the flavors better. Use oil to bring out the taste of dried herbs and spices. Items that add heat include black pepper, curries, chilies, cayenne, hot paprika, cumin, raw garlic, wasabi, cloves, turmeric, coriander, mustards, etc.
C) CREAMINESS This is more of a texture than taste, but if all the spice is getting to be too much, a little nut milk or cream can do wonders. No wonder so many hot Asian curries have coconut milk in them! • Too spicy? Add some sweetness or creaminess •
LETS FIX IT…
Too sweet? Add some sour or spiciness •
Too sour? Add sweet •
Too bland? Add salt or some spiciness •
Too salty? Add sour •
Just needs a spark? Add acid or one of the aromatics added at the end of cooking, or just a touch of heat (spiciness) •
Too harsh? Try just a touch of sweetness.