If you dislike bitter foods and beverages, you could be one of the 25% of the population known as “supertasters,” meaning you may be genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to foods with strong or bitter flavors.
When students in England took part in a study to prove a link between genetics and food preferences, however, they also discovered that, with continued exposure, some people can learn to like their greens. In a collaboration between BBC Learning and Coventry University’s Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research (CTEHR), the students, aged nine to 11, were separated into two groups; one group ate a piece of kale every day for 15 days, while the other group ate raisins. Over that period, the number of children who showed a liking for the taste of kale increased, while the number of children liking raisins did not. Using blue food dye, a magnifying glass and a piece of card, the junior scientists explored the correlation between the number of taste buds, or fungiform papillae, on the tongues of subjects and their ability to come around to the leafy green: Those who were identified as “supertasters”–having a greater number of taste buds–had a continued aversion to kale; students in the “taster” and “non-taster”categories, or those with a moderate and smaller-than-average number of taste buds, respectively, were more likely to begin to enjoy the cruciferous veggie over time the more they ate it.
According to lead researcher and professor in health behavior and change at Coventry University Jackie Blissett, acquiring a taste for greens may be as simple as “Try, try and try again! Exposure is the key to acceptance.” To make bitter vegetables more palatable to supertasters, she suggests pairing them with other foods, such as cheese or tomato-based sauces.
Try expanding your palate. Check out these recipes that spotlight little-known greens.