Understanding Taste (02:54)
Each flavor is a combination of aroma and taste molecules. Thai food engages a full range of taste receptors; Dr. Michael Mosley samples a stir fry with salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and umami tastes.
Tomatina Festival (02:37)
Mosley joins 20,000 people celebrating the tomato in Buñol, Spain. Tomatoes are heavy in umami. Mosley concentrates the taste in a laboratory to highlight glutamate molecules.
Iberico Ham (04:29)
In the oak forests of Huelva, Spain, pata negra pigs feed on acorns rich in oleic acid that produce a strong umami taste. The Marquez family slaughters a pig—a tradition known as the matanza. Learn about the curing process.
Umami Attraction (01:44)
Glutamate is a protein building block; we are biologically wired to seek protein for survival. Learn about taste bud and umami receptor functions.
Sweet and Sour Tastes (05:36)
James Wong tests pH levels of different fruits. Strawberries have the same level as citrus fruits, but evolved aroma molecules producing sweet tasting fruit that encourages animals to eat them. The brain interprets unripe strawberries as inedible.
Bitter Taste (03:44)
Taste helps us avoid toxic compounds found in cherry pits, rhubarb leaves, and raw kidney beans. In Cusco, Peru, wild potatoes emit a bitter taste, warning the brain not to eat them.
Potato Origins (06:51)
The Quechua have cultivated potatoes in the Inca Valley for thousands of years. A village grows over 100 varieties in the harsh climate. A freeze drying technique removes solanine from a poisonous variety to create chuno.
Taste—a Survival Mechanism (02:41)
Our sense of taste evolved to interpret bitter foods as poisonous and sweet foods as healthy. Salty foods can be both, but are essential to life. Mosley brews coffee with salt that blocks bitter receptors.
Salty Taste (05:24)
Each body cell contains salty water that echoes the origins of life in the ocean. In Guérande, France, salt marshes are now evaporation ponds. Learn about the sea salt production process and how the body uses salt.
Understanding Flavor (03:03)
Salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami tastes form the foundation for our food experience. In Côte-d'Or, France, Wong learns about the cheese making process. The flavor of cheese comes from its scent.
Epoisses Cheese (04:54)
France's most pungent cheese gets its aroma from bacteria and a brandy wash. Wong compares the scent to sweaty socks. Learn about the backwards smelling phenomenon.
Smell Experiment (03:26)
The nose has 400 scent detectors. Mosley attempts to identify chicken korma. We can identify up to one trillion smells.
Maillard Reaction (05:10)
Grilling meat triggers a complex chemical reaction in which amino acids and sugars react to generate thousands of different molecules. The principle also applies to baking bread, frying vegetables, and roasting coffee. In Tuscany, Mosley learns about cooking bistecca fiorentina.
Credits: A Matter of Taste (00:27)
Credits: A Matter of Taste
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