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There are five basic tastes your tongue can identify: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami (or savory).
Maybe your favorite summer treat is a double-scoop ice cream cone. Almost every flavor — chocolate, vanilla, cookies ‘n cream — of ice cream tastes sweet on your tongue. Sweetness comes from sugars in food.
Lots of delicious snacks feature several tastes mixed together, like sweet vanilla ice cream drizzled with salty salted caramel. Certain combinations of tastes explode on our tongues.
Not all tastes leave us wanting seconds. Lots of people don’t like bitter foods, and some scientists think we evolved not to like bitter things to avoid accidentally eating or drinking poison, according to Science of Cooking. Bitter foods include leafy arugula and coffee, and you might notice people often try to counter their bitterness by adding other tastes, like squeezing sour lemon juice on arugula salads or mixing sweet cream and sugar into their coffee.
Umami is a Japanese word that refers to savory or meaty foods. The Japanese characters for umami literally mean “delicious flavor,” and mushrooms, steak, soy sauce and some types of cheese all have umami taste.
Look in your pantry or fridge to find your own examples of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami foods. Make a snack board and do some taste testing. Do you prefer sweet foods, like milk chocolate, or bitter ones, like unsweetened cocoa powder?
Try blindfolding yourself or closing your eyes and having a friend or family member give you different foods to try. Babies are born recognizing sweet and sour tastes, but it can take time for kids to fully develop the ability to distinguish all five tastes. Can you identify what each mystery food’s taste is?