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Testing the taste buds

January 13, 2011
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere

There are some really interesting questions that I get from time to time that tend to be more of a scientific type of question than a question of cultivation nature.

The one that is most puzzling to many of us is why we can raise the same variety of fruit or vegetable year after year, then one year that one type of fruit or vegetable tastes terrible.

Well, some of it has to do with plain old simple taste buds and it depends on if the item that you are eating is cold or warm at the time you eat it.

As we all know, some things just taste better if they are at a certain temperature. Children have different taste buds, if you will then what we do as an adult. Scientists believe that this is why it is more difficult to get some children to eat things such as salads or other leafy greens versus chocolate or candy.

This is why, in my own opinion, kids can eat the sourest candy while we adults are cringing at trying to eat the same thing. Scientists believe this is also why some children eat more then others while there are those few that may be considered "picky" eaters.

The taste buds of some of these kids may be the cause behind some of this behavior.

As far as growing produce, there are a few external things that happen while the produce is growing in the field or garden. Hot weather will not only cause peppers to drop their flowers but will also cause peppers, even green bell peppers to become hotter in taste. This will also cause other vegetable such as cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli and so forth to bolt (start to seed out) and also to become bitter in flavor.

This is a particular concern with cauliflower. They all look great but when it comes time to eat them, it is a whole different story.

In a twist of this, a lot of water, rain in particular, may cause certain fruits and vegetables to taste watery to some people.

Grapes and apples, in particular, have been reported to me as having this happen. The grapes, whether for wine or table, will taste like they have been watered down with diluted flavor. Apples will seem a little bit mushy without the great snapping flavor that we are used to having.

And, of course, dry weather will also reduce the flavor of plants as well, although, it doesn't seem to be as reported as often as the watered down flavors.

Cool temperatures will also play havoc with plants. Tomatoes, in particular, will struggle with cooler temperatures and flavor as do squash-type plants.

The flavor of our produce is also affected by many other environmental aspects such as soil quality, daytime versus nighttime temperatures, humidity (sweet corn in particular) and what time of the growing season we are talking about. If you ever have tried and have been successful at growing indoor tomatoes, you know what I am talking about. The color, the size and all are just great but the flavor is still quite questionable. They are often better than nothing.

And then there are the times when flavor has been compromised because one type of squash has pollinated with another type of plant.

Those plants are nearly inedible and this is another story completely.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at



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