We need to eat and drink in order to survive, but it is the taste and smell that make these essential everyday activities so enjoyable! A tongue, our taste detector, is a big muscle covered with more than 10,000 clusters of taste! Under a Tongue Taste Map theory, each cluster of taste buds recognizes a particular kind of flavor: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (savory) as saliva dissolves the food in the mouth and washes it over tiny taste buds between the bumps on the tongue.
We used First Human Body Encyclopedia (buy here) book as a reference. The book introduces inner workings of the human body with fascinating facts and full-color photos and illustrations, making anatomy accessible and fun for any age! Children also enjoy Inside Your Outside: All About the Human Body book (buy here). The author, through simple fun rhymes, takes a young reader for a ride through the human body where they visit the right and left sides of the brain, meet the Feletons the Skeletons, scuba dive through the blood system, follow food and water through the digestive tract, and a whole lot more!
So to explore the five basic tastes, I offered children to place various foods on different parts of the tongue and determine if the particular food tastes sweeter/saltier, etc. in some parts of the tongue more than the others.
Sour [the sides of the tongue] taste detects acidity. Vinegar is sour as well as fruit such as lemon, grape, orange, tamarind, and sometimes melon. Food that has gone "bad" from bacteria or mold might taste sour too.
Other sour foods include lemon, vinegar, and pickles.
Salt-detecting taste buds can be found on the lips as well as tongue. Salty food such as salt, soy sauce, and miso tells you if something is rich in minerals and electrolytes.
Bitter [back of the tongue] taste tells you if something is likely poisonous (most medicines are if ingested in excess). Examples of bitter food are coffee, unsweetened cocoa, South American mate, bitter gourd, olives, citrus peel, many plants in the Brassicaceae family, bitter greens (dandelion, broccoli rabe), wild chicory, and escarole.
Sweet [tip of the tongue] taste tells you if the food is rich in sugar and carbohydrates. The first milk the child receives from his/her mother is sweet. Sweetness such as sugar and honey is the key to enhancing the flavor of baked goods. Also, most fruit is sweet.
The last taste, Umami [evenly distributed throughout the tongue] is the savory taste of foods rich in protein like meat or soy. Other examples of umami are foods such as mushrooms, vegetables (e.g., ripe tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, spinach, celery, etc.) or green tea, and fermented and aged products (e.g., cheeses/ blue cheese, miso, umeboshi, soy sauce, etc), anchovies.
⚠️ An update: current scientific research refutes the " tongue taste🗺 map" and suggests that rather every single cluster of taste buds on the 👅 tongue is capable of detecting every single one of five tastes. However, despite the viability of the tongue taste map, this activity is 👧🏻👦🏼children's ❤️favorite! They had so much fun stimulating their 😋senses and trying discerning different flavors!
We also played a game: 🙈Can you tell what kind of food are you smelling/tasting?
I offered children a tasting tray with different foods and a blindfold to isolate just one sense: the concept which is a cornerstone of Montessori Sensorial work. Maria Montessori believed that by designing materials and activities which isolate the one quality to be worked with by the child, the child will be afforded an opportunity to intensely focus and concentrate on that one quality, without the distraction from other senses. So, today, we are concentrating on the sense of 👃🏻smell and 👅taste.
Did you know that much of what we think of as 👅taste is actually 👃🏻smell❗️Scientists estimate that the nose can recognise a trillion different scents! The back of your nose is linked to your mouth at the throat so that you can smell the food as you chew it. That is why when you have a 🤒cold, tiny hairs in your 👃🏻nose get clogged with mucus. This stops them from wafting smell particles deep into your nose and makes it hard to smell or taste things. That is exactly why you cannot "taste" anything when you have a stuffy nose!
Based on the above-mentioned, I encouraged my children to 👃🏻smell the food and describe the aroma first before tasting it: does it smell sweet? Sour? Is the smell familiar? Can you guess what type of food is it?
For more about the BODY, see here the post "💉 Inside of the BODY Anatomy Unit Study."