I have a friend on FB who works really hard to feed her family healthy things. I think there are food allergies and intolerances involved so she has to be very particular with what she feeds her family. Often times she posts some pretty creative cooking ideas. One thing she is always asking about is greens. How do you cook your greens? She usually states which green she is working with but she always comes back with, “It is so bitter.” Now some of the greens she says are bitter taste a little bitter to me, but with olive oil, salt, garlic, and onion the flavor is masked. Some of them she claims are bitter aren’t bitter to me. I really think that the bitter taste has less to do with which vegetable than with our genes.
Back in 1931 a chemist (Arthur Fox) was pouring a powdered chemical (PTC) and some of its dust got in the air. His assistant said the dust tasted bitter, while he couldn’t taste anything. The chemist proceeded to experiment with PTC and the taste on his friends and family. Some could taste a strong bitter taste, while some could taste a mild bitter taste, while some could taste nothing at all. Seventy-two years later in 2003 the gene that is responsible for this was discovered. They call it the PTC gene or TAS2R38. This gene has seven forms, five of which are rare, and two of which are common. The two common forms are the ones that allow for tasting bitter and one that does not. Since all genes come in pairs we can end up with both being the tasting gene, or both being the non-tasting gene, or one of each.
If an individual ends up with both of the genes that allow for them to taste PTC then they will be able to taste bitter things more strongly than others. If an individual has the genes that are the “non-tasting” genes then they don’t taste bitter. Then there are the individuals that have one of each. It has been found that there is a familial link, if some family members can taste the PTC than other can too.
I would imagine that if an individual has a set of bitter-taste genes then it would be almost impossible to cover up the bitter taste of many vegetables. I am thinking that my friend and her family must have a set of those genes because she says she has cooked some veggies a multitude of ways and her comment is still, “It is so bitter.” Probably the only way to deal with the bitter is to cover it up entirely in a sauce but then that would somewhat defeat the purpose of trying to eat a nice green healthy vegetable. Plus I would bet that most of the sauces contain ingredients she is trying to avoid. She is determined though. She knows that the bitter vegetables have really good stuff in them so she keeps trying. In the meantime her family is still getting the nutrients even though it is bitter and doesn’t taste good.
There are test strips that can be purchased to see which gene you have. I found some on Amazon. Interesting, huh?
Do you have a good sense of taste? Do you taste bitter really strongly?