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Too Bitter To Swallow

Posted by terrepruitt on May 10, 2012

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?

4 Responses to “Too Bitter To Swallow”

  1. diana said

    wow who is that really annoying person that you are friends with on facebook. She complains so much about greens and won’t take any advice. I would totally remove her from your facebook address book!


    • diana said

      ha-ha JK. Really you can make your own homemade sauces and stuff. I made a black bean soup and put spinach ground up in it. I made Chilli the other day and added chard ground up. The stuff I used to make the chilli coulda been more natural had I used my own tomato sauce and ground my own turkey but the greens were totally disguised in that too. I can chopp them up, saute them then mix it in millet or oat groats and they are totally do-able. We are not in love with greens due to the texture and slime and some have that bitterness that won’t cook out but…….like you said, we live with it becuase we need these things. Wow, totally interesting info about the gene thing tho….where’d you find this ? Thanks so much for posting and putting up with me on FB!


      • I had to wag my finger at you because I know that is how you feel. I had to tell you what you don’t realize. I know you can make your own sauces, I do, but adding fat and other things doesn’t really add to the greens.

        I don’t cook greens to the point of slime. And I don’t think I taste them the same as you. I think you have the PTC gene. I think I was talking to John about how you think collard greens are bitter (he loves them) and I think he mentioned the “bitter tasting gene” so I’ve wanted to post something for a long time.

        And really you are a huge asset on FB with all of your experimentation.

        Plus I love your energy and enthusiasm about the Good News Club, your home projects (how is that cat tower guoing), and just your energy in general!


    • STOP! People that read my friend’s post don’t find her annoying nor do we feel she complains. That is something SHE would say. I can tell without knowing the other people that comment on her post that she is admired for her tenacity at trying to feed her family well and try to make her children be healthy. Plus we learn from her experiments we are all afraid/too busy to try. She is awesome in her quest, but she always thinks she is complaining, but I don’t see it that way at all!!!! Shame on you for thinking she is annoying, she teaches us all!!!


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