The number of taste buds each of us has varies hugely. Photo: Engin Akyurt

Can you taste the difference?

Have you ever wondered how some people can pick out different ingredients in a dish while others need a lot of salt to make the same dish taste better for them?

That’s due to our taste buds and funnily enough, we don’t all have the same amount of taste buds. On average people can have between 2,000 and 10,000 taste buds.

The more you have, the better you are able to taste – I assume that excellent food critics like Matthew Ford in the UK might even have more as he is able to identify even tiny amounts of spices and herbs in dishes.

Your taste buds are located on top of your tongue, your soft palate, food pipe, cheeks and epiglottis (the thingi that prevents your drink and food going into your lungs).

I was very surprised that we can ‘taste’ food with our cheeks and food pipes but it makes sense that the entire mouth area gives us pleasure when eating.

The taste buds have different jobs and are divided into detecting sweet, sour, salty, bitterness and umami - many say that these different taste areas can only be tasted in certain areas of your mouth but that’s not entirely true. Our taste buds are mixed up and can detect any of these tastes.

So how do we know how many taste buds we have? Apparently, a high school in the US has found a way to make taste buds visible by using blue food dye on your tongue. If your tongue doesn’t get too blue, you have sensitive taste buds, hence more while a very blue tongue means that taste buds are low and you are not sensitive to taste.

I haven’t tried it so can’t attest if it works. But there are ways to look after your taste buds by attending a dentist regularly and have good mouth hygiene in general.

Don’t smoke – I know many chefs who smoke and never understood that as nicotine numbs the tongue and everything on it. Drinking plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated is also highly recommended.

Also, when you have a cold or are on certain medication, your taste sensitivity can change. Scientists working on understanding our taste buds better are using lizards who have over a million times more taste buds than we have (that makes it easier to measure responses to different flavours, temperature etc).

I have to admit, I wouldn’t like to have a million taste buds as it means that you can taste everything. Trust me, that ain’t a good thing!

Loss of taste is one of the side effects of the rotten virus we are dealing with at the moment and I didn’t find any scientific research paper that explains how that happens - just that it can take up to a year before it comes back.

That’s scary for someone like me who writes about food and is always looking for great taste experiences.

Here’s hoping that it won’t happen. Stay safe my darlings!