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How to Trick Tastebuds

How to Trick Tastebuds

Your taste buds aren't the only things that help you tell sweet from sour, and apples from onions. Your nose also has something to do with it.  In fact, because of your nose, it's pretty easy to convince your tastebuds that apples are onions. Why don't we give it a go?

What to do
  • Take a piece of apple and a piece of onion (it doesn't have to be apple or onion, but these work well because they taste and smell very different).
  • Hold the stinky onion morsel as near to your nose as you can get it.
  • Eat the apple.
  • Urgh! It tastes like onion!

What’s happened

Our sense of taste is actually mainly governed by smell. Our taste buds don’t have very good resolution, being only able to distinguish between bitter, sweet, salt, sour and umami (savoury). Our noses, on the other hand, can distinguish up to 10,000 different smells. A lot of what we think of as taste is actually smells passing through our mouths to the olfactory centres.

So by holding the onion under your nose you might be able to fool your brain into thinking that the apple tastes of onion.

This experiment actually works best with foods which are also similar in texture. If you don’t get a good response with the fruit, see if you can fool yourself into believing that whipped cream is the actually chocolate mousse.

This experiment has been adapted from Mick O'Hare's excellent book
How to Fossilise your Hamster see more at

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29 Jul 2011
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