- Cilantro and celery
- Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap To Some People?
- Best of the Bunch
- Cleaning Up
- Creative Cooking
- Pair Flavors
- Why does raw celery from a restaurant taste different than raw celery at home?
- Bitter Tasting Celery Stalks: How To Keep Celery From Tasting Bitter
- How to Keep Celery from Tasting Bitter
- Other Reasons for Bitter Tasting Stalks
- Why hating cilantro (and other flavors) may be genetic
- Celery: Why?
- Nutritonal Star: How celery can replace salt in your diet
- Celery salt
- French mirepoix
- Italian soffrito
- How to use mirepoix and soffrito
Cilantro and celery
I know, I’ve been neglecting you. It’s not that I have nothing to say; it’s that I discovered people are reading my blog.
You see, I realize that this blog is public and anyone anywhere can read it, but it doesn’t really get a lot of hits. I mean, yet. So I didn’t used to think much about people reading it.
But then over the course of a couple weeks, several close friends told me that they read my blog, some more regularly than others, but they read it. Even friends who I would never imagine reading blogs – much less mine.
Which then suddenly made me feel …. self conscious, I guess. At heart, I’m a pretty private person. I have this blog to help promote my brand, my book; I don’t have it because I have a burning need to have the world know what I’m thinking about. I love writing and I love sharing ideas but it’s weird to have people who are close to me come up to me and talk about things I mentioned here. I’m not saying bad; it’s just weird.
Anyway, as I said, I have had a lot on my mind lately. These are the themes I’m thinking about these days:
Making choices based on fear vs. making choices based on love; how one person’s choices made from fear can make another person to react with choices based on fear, and the whole relationship can fall apart when it doesn’t need to.
Forgiveness and compassion.
The introspectiveness (?) of autumn.
And also, I’ve been thinking about cilantro and celery.
Some people think cilantro tastes GREAT. Others of us think it tastes like medicine/soap. I’m convinced that this is a genetic thing – just as there are genes that determine whether you roll your tongue, I believe there are genes that determine whether you like cilantro. (Not necessarily the same genes.) Likewise, some people think celery has a disgusting taste, while others think it sort of tastes like solid watery nothing.
So today’s mission, should you choose to accept it:
1. Do you like cilantro? If not, do you agree it tastes like medicine/soap?
2. Do you like celery? Do you think it has a strong taste or hardly any taste?
3. Can you roll your tongue?
4. Can you wink your eyes separately?
5. Do you know your personality type? (I’m ENFJ though I think the E could be an I sometimes!)
6. Any other traits you want to share?
Welcome to September, peeps!
I would rather do anything—sit through three cavity fillings, go for a run on a 110-degree day, endure two nights without sleeping—than eat an entire bowl of celery. I promise you, I am not exaggerating. There’s something about its stringy texture and weird, watery consistency that sends me sprinting in the opposite direction.
There are people who add cilantro to their every meal because they can’t get enough of its herby bite. Others would compare it to chewing on a bar of soap. Me and celery? It sends my mouth into a confused foam that I would at best describe as soapy and at worst liken to chomping on hundreds of pieces of thread dipped in dirty rain water that mysteriously maintain their crunch.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect celery’s much-admired role as a classic snack food. It’s crunchy, you basically burn the calories it contains by chewing it, and you can top it with peanut butter (in its defense, major points to anything that goes with a spoonful of Skippy). But one bite of celery—be it as a stick, in a soup, or in a stir-fry—and my face falls into a cringe to kill all other cringes.
My hatred is no secret among family and friends. I’ve been served a plate of ribs with one lone celery stick, smothered in BBQ sauce, hiding underneath the bones, just to see if my distaste for the vegetable stood the test of sneaky inclusion. (It did.) And it goes beyond the taste. Try watching a TV show with your roommate chomping on celery across the room. (PSA: I shouldn’t be able to hear what’s going on in your mouth from clear across the room, even when you are politely chewing with your mouth closed.)
The roots of my celery aversion run deep: I remember the first time I ever tasted that vile veggie, and maybe it says something more about my personality than my taste buds. My brother and I attended a summer day care program way back when. Much to my soon-to-be-discovered dismay, there was a strict rule at the lunch table of this day care program: you had to clean your plate, or you couldn’t participate in afternoon crafts. Even as an adult I can tell you that my hatred for celery is matched by my love of crafting. As you can probably guess, celery—being a low-cost and low-fuss food—was one of the main side dishes of many meals. Just the scent of it threw my stomach into a tizzy. And you’d better believe I sat there straight through craft time refusing to eat it.
I begged the day care monitor to let me off the hook, warned her of the potential of it coming right back up after it went down (most likely in less eloquent words), but she wouldn’t hear me out. Eventually, out of fear that I would actually get in trouble for not eating something I hated, I forced it down. So is it celery’s confusing, stringy crunch or the sting of childhood defeat that turned me off of this ubiquitous veggie for life? I’ll never know, but needless to say, keep your ants on a log far, far away from my snack table.
Editor’s Note: Don’t even think about serving this dish to Erika:
Or this one:
And especially not this one:
Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap To Some People?
by Sophie Harrington
Surprisingly controversial, cilantro (or coriander, as it’s known in other parts of the world) has sparked a level of vitriol unheard of amongst other herbs. From the online community at IHateCilantro.com to the “I hate coriander. Worst herb ever” Facebook group, it might be the most polarizing leaf in the culinary world. What is it about cilantro that makes some people describe it as tasting like soapy pennies, moldy shoes, and cat pee, while others rave about its fresh flavor?
Despite being well liked in many other cultures, cilantro has historically been a controversial herb in the western kitchen. It produces a specific subset of aldehydes, organic compounds that can provide highly pungent odors when highly expressed. It’s these aldehydes that are most likely responsible for the soapy taste and smell many people associate with cilantro. Yet these aldehydes also provide the fresh, citrusy aroma that others rave about. So why are some people unable to taste the good side of cilantro?
Disliking cilantro isn’t a recent phenomenon. In a 2001 paper, University of Otago anthropologist Helen Leach found that cilantro was treated as an unwanted herb in European cuisine from the 16th century onward, and very often disparaged for its foul taste and smell.
Leach suggests that this dislike may have stemmed from a misleading interpretation of the word’s etymology, itself stemming from the Greek koris, for bug. Sharing a similar shape to bedbugs, the newly unpopular herb may have been associated with their foul smell. This negative association may have been enough to enhance the less palatable flavors in cilantro, leading Victorians to turn their noses up at the herb.
The use of cilantro in many non-western forms of cooking may have fed into long-standing European stereotypes. By associating cilantro with unclean, fetid bedbugs, many forms of non-western cuisine were tarred in association. It was not until after World War II, when it became fashionable to try new cuisines at restaurants and even branch out in the kitchen at home, that cilantro begin to re-enter the western culinary canon.
A study by Lilli Mauer and Ahmed El-Sohemy at the University of Toronto found that while 17 percent of Caucasians disliked the taste of cilantro, only 4 percent of Hispanics and 3 percent of people of Middle Eastern descent disliked the herb. Mexican cuisine, for example, is known to make full use of the herb and it’s a staple spice in many Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines, too. These groups similarly appear to be those least likely to dislike it. Perhaps growing up eating cilantro is enough to gain immunity to its less palatable aromas and tastes.
This might seem like vindication to those who suggest a dislike of cilantro is just being fussy, but more recent studies have found specific genetic differences associated with the taste. A study by the personal genomics company 23andMe identified a small DNA variation in a cluster of olfactory receptor genes that is strongly associated with the perception of a “soapy” taste in cilantro. This may be traced to the OR6A2 gene, an olfactory receptor able to bind many of the aldehydes implicated in the herb’s very particular smell. Perhaps those with a specific variation in the gene are particularly sensitive to its soapiness.
Studies on twins have also bolstered the suggestion that cilantro preference has a genetic component. Preliminary research by Charles Wysocki at the Monell Chemical Senses Center suggests that while 80 percent of identical twins share similar taste profiles for cilantro, only 42 percent of fraternal twins do. If the genetic component does play a significant role, it may be that certain cultures are predisposed to use cilantro in the cooking because they’re genetically predisposed to like it, rather than the other way around.
That’s some good news for cilantro-phobes at least, since no one can blame you for your genes. Still, it doesn’t make the horror of accidentally getting a bite of the green stuff any more bearable for them.
Have you got a Big Question you’d like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at [email protected]
The perfect bunch of celery is crisp and mild, with a slight peppery bite. Bitter celery is the result of poor growing conditions or an overly mature plant. Although bitter celery isn’t suited for a raw treat, cooking it can sometimes salvage the bunch. Lessen the unpleasant flavor with proper preparation and cooking.
Best of the Bunch
Color can indicate the bitterness in a bunch of celery. The lighter the color, the milder the flavor. Avoid large bunches with darker green stalks and leaves. The mildest portions of celery, usually called the celery hearts, are nearly white to pale green with yellowish leaves. It’s also sometimes called “blanched” or “golden” celery. This celery is grown with the stalks covered to prevent sunlight from bringing out the bitter flavors. Tender hearts or light green celery bunches with minimal bitterness have narrow, crisp stalks, with no limpness or wilted leaves.
The smaller, paler inner stalks usually have less bitterness than the darker outer stalks. When cleaning the bunch, set aside the inner stalks for raw eating, and use the more bitter outer stalks for cooked dishes. Celery leaves are also typically more bitter than the stalks, especially if they are a dark green. Use the leaves sparingly in cooked dishes if you are sensitive to the bitter flavor. Cut off the base of the ribs and wash the stalks thoroughly in cold water to remove any soil or dirt that could otherwise affect the flavor.
Cooking helps minimize any bitterness while bringing out the mild flavor and aromatic quality of the celery. When presented with a particularly bitter bunch, serve it cooked rather than raw. Simmering it in a soup or stock until tender tempers bitterness, and the other ingredients in the soup broth mask any bitter flavor that remains. Steaming or simmering celery for 20 minutes also helps bring out the mild flavor. For a crisper texture, try sauteing celery in butter just until it begins to soften. This will reduce mild bitterness but isn’t suitable for exceedingly tough, bitter stalks.
Combining celery with complementary flavors brings out the desirable flavors while minimizing bitterness. Strongly aromatic foods lessen bitterness better than mild flavors. Try cooking celery with onions and garlic, or cook it with a rich-flavored meat or soy sauce broth. Acidic foods like tomatoes or strong-flavored options such as cabbage can also help temper the bitterness. Celery also complements mild foods like potatoes, rice and chicken, but exceptionally bitter bunches require thorough cooking and a rich sauce or gravy to completely mask a bitter aftertaste.
Why does raw celery from a restaurant taste different than raw celery at home?
This is two years past, and I’m sure the original poster and replyers have long forgotten about this thread. But I wanted to leave my comment in case any new readers came across this…
Different brands of celery have different flavors. (Also, there are a few different types of celery lmao but let me not confuse you) Mostly, it’s in the brands. I don’t believe each brand grows their “own strain”, not at all! I just think you know what to expect from each brand. Think of strawberries for example, they’re the easiest ones to imagine. I’m sure at most grocery stores, you’ll see a sale like $2.99 per unit for example… But when you look down at the strawberry section, you’ll probably see more than one strawberry company there. You’ll see 50 that say “Cascadia” or another 30 that say “Something Farms” etc etc and maybe even a bunch more called “Organic Something”… And if you look closer you’ll see that one of the brands has massive strawberries… Or you’ll remember that one of the brands always has really particularly sweet strawberries…. That’s what I mean.
With celery… It’s easy to forget, and it’s almost imperceptible. I ONLY noticed it from the celery juicing craze from 2018-2019. My local grocery store was having a sale (the craze was dying down end of 2019). I was buying 5 bunches at a time and the brand had a purple logo. Each bunch was giving me about 12-14oz. It was also really salty, earthy and delicious.
One day, I see there’s a couple different brands there. All still the same sale price. The other brand is a well known company with a dark green logo, and I get the idea to just compare them for fun. Big mistake lol. Each bunch is giving me about 18-20oz. Which you would think is great!!! The stalks are lighter green, huge and fat, But UGH the flavor is watered down…. And so I can’t tell… Are these fresher, full of more water…. Or are they seriously LACKING in any nutrients??? Are they better or worse?? And all I could think was DANGIT, I miss the full flavoured salty celery juice of that other brand. I got used to my weird picklejuiceflavoredthingamajig hahaha
I started thinking…. This one is probably the one you would get at a diner/restaurant with no flavor that goes super great dipped with ranch or blue cheese.
And having worked in restaurants for over 10 years, one thing I know is that state laws kinda control where we get our produce from. Our selections are limited. So if we get celery from somewhere…. It’ll probably be the same celery supplier/brand for years to come. Also there’s a HIGH chance that the neighboring restaurants (ALL across the state, actually) will be using the same supplier… Not guaranteed. But they (the supplier) will put their bids in, and there’s a good chance they’ll win all of our restaurants’ businesses.
Bitter Tasting Celery Stalks: How To Keep Celery From Tasting Bitter
Celery is a cool season crop that requires about 16 weeks of cool temperatures to mature. It is best to start celery indoors about eight weeks before the last frost in the spring. When seedlings have five to six leaves, they can be set out.
If you live in an area with cool spring and summer weather, you can plant celery outdoors in early spring. Warmer regions can enjoy a fall crop of celery if planted in late summer. Sometimes you may find that your garden grown crop has some very bitter tasting celery stalks. If you wonder, “Why does my celery taste bitter?” continue reading to learn more about
the reasons for pungent celery.
How to Keep Celery from Tasting Bitter
In order to determine what makes celery bitter, assess your growing conditions. Celery needs extraordinarily rich, moisture retentive soil that is slightly wet but drains well. Celery also likes a soil pH between 5.8 and 6.8. If you’re unsure of your soil acidity, have a soil sample tested and amend as needed.
Heat is no friend to celery, which prefers cool temperatures between 60 and 70 F. (16-21 C.). Keep celery plants well watered during the growing season. Without adequate water, stalks become stringy.
Provide at least one mid-season application of compost, as celery is a heavy feeder. With proper growing conditions, it’s easy to avoid that bitter-tasting, pungent celery.
Other Reasons for Bitter Tasting Stalks
If you’ve provided all of the right growing conditions and are still asking yourself, “Why does my celery taste bitter?” it may be because you didn’t blanch the plants to protect the stalks from the sun.
Blanching involves covering the stalks with straw, soil or rolled up paper cylinders. Blanching promotes healthy celery and encourages the production of chlorophyll. Celery that has been blanched 10 to 14 days prior to harvest will have a sweet and pleasing taste. Without blanching, celery can very quickly becomes bitter.
Why hating cilantro (and other flavors) may be genetic
I’m not one of those people who is genetically disposed to hate cilantro (in fact, I love it), but I do have a serious problem with another vegetable — celery. I hate it so much I can’t even keep it in my refrigerator because I can’t stand even opening the fridge door and smelling its horrific odor. I have such a strong distaste for it that I can completely relate to those well-documented cilantro-phobes, like Julia Child, who say things like: “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor,” if they found it on their plates.
According to The New York Times, the aversion to cilantro, and its reminder flavors (people complain the herb tastes like soap or reminds them of bedbug odor) make sense, since chemically they are similar to both bugs and soaps. “Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects.”
“Celery is odd, right?” says botanist Charles Davis of Harvard University. “Another thing that’s always baffled me about umbellifers is that most species are wickedly poisonous.” Socrates famously died by consuming water hemlock, a member of that family.
Wild celery is native to the Mediterranean area, according to Davis, though archaeological remains from Switzerland have suggested that humans were transporting celery seeds as early as 4,000 B.C. Another variety of celery called “smallage” was present in China as early as the 5th century. Strong aroma may have boosted the appeal of the varieties in the Mediterranean and Asia.
But celery enthusiasts of yore were probably not munching it for taste, according to Carlos Quiros, a plant geneticist emeritus from the University of California, Davis. He says that people in Egypt, Rome and China used the wild plant medicinally for a slew of ailments, but “usually for hangovers or as aphrodisiacs.” (Lonely hearts beware: There’s no medical proof that celery helps with either.) The Greeks and Romans favored wild celery’s leaves to weave victory crowns for athletes, Quiros says, as did the Egyptians. In fact, archaeologists discovered a celery wreath in Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Based on my conversations, it seems as though culinary celery cultivation probably began in the 1600s in Italy or France. Horticulturalist Joe Masabni, of Texas A&M University’s extension school, speculates that Mediterranean flavors assisted celery’s big break.
“You saute anything with olive oil, and it tastes good,” says Masabni, who thinks celery also might have served as a filler food, to “beef up” meals, as it were. “In the old days, you take chicken and it feeds one person. But you take a chicken and add it to soup with lots of vegetables, and you can feed a whole family.” Davis thinks that during this period, Europeans began selecting for crunchy, succulent stems, while the Chinese cultivated a leafier variety, which today features in soups and sautes as “Chinese celery.”
There’s some debate about which individual first grew celery in the United States, but we know cultivation began in Michigan in the late 1800s. The crop grew well in the state’s mild summers, and Dutch immigrants in the area seized the opportunity to farm the vegetable for a celery-curious American market. Today the average American consumes six pounds of celery per year, UC Davis’ Quiros says.
Though detractors criticize the watery stalks for culinary blandness, celery does have some devotees.
“I love celery. It’s awesome,” says Robin Willis, a librarian in Frederick, Md. “I’m a big fan of foods that crunch, so celery is right up there. And you can dip it in stuff.” She also calls celery the unsung hero of soups, infusing subtle — but critical — flavor.
But like the Mona Lisa or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, celery’s flavor seems to defy description. When pressed to describe celery in musical terms, general manager of the Michigan Celery Promotion Cooperative, Gary Wruble, compared the vegetable to classic rock. “I don’t know why,” he says. “It’s my favorite genre.”
“I’m actually a pretty big fan of celery,” says ethnobotanist Thomas Carlson of the University of California, Berkeley. He sings the praises of the vegetable’s fibers, which he says aid digestion. He also tried to win me over to celery seed. “In the past two weeks,” says Carlson, “I’ve had it in several meals, and it was quite tasty.”
Nutritonal Star: How celery can replace salt in your diet
Celery is one of those vegetables that some people just loathe with a passion and there is no convincing them otherwise. I’ve even heard it referred to as ‘the devil’s work’! A bit harsh, I think, for an innocuous vegetable. But love it or loathe it, celery has some incredible health benefits that make it a nutritional star.
For years, I have recommended to my cookery students to use celery and celery salt in cooking as it has a natural salty flavour without the negative side effects of consuming too much salt. It also contains potassium – which is key in managing high blood pressure.
This alone makes it a wonderfully heart-healthy ingredient. And you can even use the seeds as a seasoning and salt substitute.
Celery has many more heart-health benefits such as phthalides that help relax the arteries and blood vessels, helping reduce blood pressure. Potent antioxidants such as coumarin have great anti-inflammatory benefits to protect heart tissue.
And to top it off, celery has mild diuretic benefits, which helps the kidneys manage water retention. This is often a problem with high blood pressure.
The Harvard Medical Journal recently published a report showing that high-sodium diets, irrespective of other lifestyle factors, still play a dominant role in current cases of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. The unfortunate truth is that we are just not listening to health warnings. Whether it is alerts about eating too much sugar, salt or saturated fat, we have tuned them out.
It’s not enough just to say to people to eat less salt. That is easier said than done when it is lurking in so many different foods. The first thing I would do is dramatically reduce all pre-packaged and convenience foods. Breakfast cereals are a real culprit as are the obvious cold meats, ready meals, crisp breads and crackers. And don’t be fooled by sweet foods, they often contain almost as much salt as savoury foods.
The second prong of the attack is to cook more of your own meals and snacks from scratch and to look at how much salt you are using. It’s easy to add more salt than is necessary without actually tasting your food. Also, be aware that some ingredients – such as stock, soy sauce and condiments like ketchup – are very salty. Make up half-strength stocks and try mustards, tomato paste, vinegar and dried herbs and spices to add flavour without the salt. Flavour bases such as French mirepoix and Italian soffrito are wonderful for adding flavour and extra nutrients.
The last step is to look at your table seasoning. I’m a fiend for freshly ground black pepper and add it to everything. Many people are the same with salt, automatically adding a generous sprinkling, often without even tasting the food first. This can drive the cook bonkers, but I think rather than get in a tizzy, give the salt lover an alternative. Celery salt makes a great table seasoning that satisfies the desire for a salty flavour, but with far less sodium.
You might already have a jar of celery salt in your pantry and never use it. Well now is the time to dig it out or make your own. Celery salt is not just for Bloody Marys! It is great as a seasoning as you cook, instead of salt, and, most importantly, as a table seasoning for the salt fiends. It has a definite salty taste and other savoury and herbaceous notes. You can make celery salt from dehydrated celery stalks, but I find celery seeds work perfectly well.
If you are new to celery salt, you can mix it with sea salt and gradually reduce the salt as you get used to the flavour.
Homemade celery salt
÷ 1/4 cup celery seeds
÷ 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
The best way to grind the seeds and salt together is using a pestle and mortar. Grind the celery seeds and salt to a fine powder. Or you can mix them well and then fill a refillable pepper grinder and grind it as you go.
Mirepoix is a classic French flavour base that is widely used throughout the cuisine. It is simply made up of finely diced onion, celery and carrot. The onion adds a savoury flavour, the celery a naturally salty flavour and, for balance, the carrot adds a little sweetness. It is surprising how such a simple idea can add so much flavour and nutrients.
Simple mirepoix recipe
2 cups onion, finely diced
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup carrot, finely diced
2 tablespoons light olive oil, to saute
I deliberately haven’t given you amounts of vegetables as the size of vegetables vary greatly and it’s the ratio of the onion, celery and carrot that is important.
Dice up the veggies and place in different bowls. You can eyeball the quantities to see if the ratio is right, or you can even weigh it if you want to be precise. Heat up a little light olive oil in a saucepan and add the veggies.
Cut out or tear a circle of parchment paper and place directly on top of the vegetables.
This is called a cartouche and helps the veggies steam or ‘sweat’ in their own moisture. Sauté the mirepoix on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until soft.
Italian soffrito is very much like French mirepoix but with added garlic and woody herbs. The recipes vary greatly, it just depends on which dishes you will be using it in. The most important thing to remember is to add the garlic later in the cooking process, so that the natural oils don’t burn. Burnt garlic has a horrible flavour and there is no saving it.
I think the best herbs to use in this are rosemary and thyme, or just thyme on its own. They can withstand the long cooking process and they are universal flavours that will suit lots of dishes and cuisines.
You will need:
2 cups onion
1 cup carrot
1 cup celery
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons light olive oil, to sauté
The cooking method is pretty similar to making a mirepoix. Start by gently heating a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion, carrot, celery and herbs. Cover with a parchment paper circle (cartouche) and simmer for eight minutes on a medium head, stirring occasionally, until soft.
Add the garlic and cook for a further two to three minutes until the garlic is fragrant and cooked. It doesn’t take long at all, so don’t overcook the garlic.
How to use mirepoix and soffrito
These flavour bases are really useful coming into autumn and winter when we are cooking more soups and stews. My best advice is to take a couple of hours every few weeks and make up big batches of mirepoix or soffrito and freeze it. I buy the plastic take-away containers and freeze one-cup portions of cooked and cooled mirepoix at a time. I find it best to cook the mirepoix, rather than just freeze the diced raw veggies.
You can then use the mirepoix from frozen. Simply add to a large pot of stew or to start off a soup. If you are making a meat-based stew, brown the meat in the pot first, set aside and then defrost the mirepoix in the pot. You can then add the meat back in, your sauce and continue to cook.
For a soup, defrost the mirepoix or soffrito in the soup pot, add the rest of the vegetables, and continue to simmer. A vegetable soup only needs about 20 minutes to cook then you can serve it chunky or blitz with a blender.
You can use mirepoix to add flavour and nutrition to any minced-meat-based recipes. The favourites would be spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and chilli con carne. Simply brown the meat, add the mirepoix then the rest of your herbs, spices and sauce. This is a great way to hide veggies!
Recipes taken from Relish and Delish cookbooks by Rozanne Stevens. For courses and cookbooks log onto rozannestevens.com.
Health & Living
Balancing the Five Tastes
Lenore Y. Baum, M.A.
-excerpted from Lenore’s Natural Cuisine cookbook
Often people cannot stop eating even though they are full. Why is this? According to traditional Asian medicine, the body requires five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent. These tastes nourish the internal organs and satisfy the taste buds. If any of the tastes are lacking in the diet, your body will be unsatisfied, causing cravings. By understanding how this principle affects you, you can begin to control your appetite.
Sweet is the most sought-after taste. Americans frequently choose candy, soda or commercial pastries to try to meet this craving. However, what the body really needs are naturally-occurring complex carbohydrates like carrots, sweet corn, yams, onions and winter squash. Only then will the pancreas, which regulates the blood sugar level, be satisfied.
Another favorite taste is salty. Good quality salt, in moderation, is necessary for digestion, nerve connections and muscle contractions. In addition, it assists the immune system by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and by enhancing proper intestinal flora. Recommended high quality sources of salt are unrefined sea salt, miso, shoyu, gomashio and sea vegetables.
Lemon, lime and sauerkraut are commonly known sour foods. But, most people do not eat them on a regular basis. This taste is needed to nourish the liver and gall bladder. Including naturally fermented pickles is an easy way to give a sour, salty crunch to any meal. In addition, Umeboshi or brown rice vinegar adds a delicious splash of sour when sprinkled on cooked vegetables.
The average American rarely eats bitter-tasting foods. Since bitter nourishes the heart, traditional medicine maintains that a lack of this taste can contribute to heart disease. There are several easy ways to include bitter in the diet. Add endive, chicory or radicchio to salads, or garnish soups with parsley. Eat tabouli, celery sticks and bitter greens such as kale and collards. Or, for a quick fix, drink an instant grain cereal coffee alternative, like Roma®, after your meal.
The last taste, pungent, is also described as spicy. It supports the lungs and large intestines. Its properties help the body disperse fat from oily foods. Fresh garlic and ginger, mustard, turnips, scallion, red radish, daikon radish and horseradish are included in this category.
The underlying principle of the five tastes theory is that opposite flavors are complementary. For example, eating sweets causes cravings for salty foods and vice-versa. In contrast, when you eat a meal including all five tastes, you feel completely nourished. You will not snack on additional food later to satisfy your out-of-balance cravings.
The recipes in this book take these principles into account. For example, hummus contains pungent garlic and sour lemon. These ingredients help to balance the oil in Tahini. Salt brings out sweetness when sautéing onions. With practice and observation, you will learn to create your own balanced recipes and meals.
In the end, do not let this information overwhelm you. A balanced meal can be as simple as a bean soup, cooked grain, steamed greens and a few pickles. You might want to make a copy of the table below to help you plan balanced meals using the five tastes.
celery collards endive escarole grain cereal
beverages kale mustard
greens parsley turnip
ginger onions, raw red radish scallions turnip wasabi