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Taste This – Activity to Try at Home

This article appeared in the November 26, 2010 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Liz Shenaut
Special to the Enterprise
If you celebrated Thanksgiving, then you have probably done a lot of tasting in the last 24 hours. But you might not have paid attention to the relationship between your two taste detectors – your nose and your tongue.
Try the following activity to find out more about your sense of taste and to discover which of your taste detectors is dominant over the other.

Part One: Discover how your nose affects your sense of taste.

You will need: a slice of uncooked, peeled potato, a willing partner to be your test subject, and a yummy “chaser” to eat at the end of the experiment.
Instructions: Don’t tell your test subject what she will be tasting; just tell her you will be giving her a piece of mystery food. Instruct your subject to close her eyes, pinch her nose closed with one hand, and hold out her other hand.
Place the piece of potato into your subject’s hand. Direct her to place the mystery food on her tongue and to move it around and bite into it. Tell her NOT to swallow any of the mystery food.
Instruct your test subject to let go of her nose. Wait for her to react. (She will probably run to the sink to spit out the potato.) Provide her with a yummy “chaser” food to get rid of the unpleasant taste.
Follow up by asking your test subject what the mystery food was, and when in the experiment they were able to identify it. Also ask when it tasted better, with her nose closed or after she let go of her nose.
About 70 to 75% of what we taste comes from our sense of smell.

Part Two: Play a trick on your senses to discover if your nose or tongue is dominant in your sense of taste.

You will need: a slice of apple, vanilla extract, a cotton ball, and a willing test subject.
Instructions: Pour vanilla extract onto the cotton ball. Give your test subject the apple slice, and instruct her to take one bite and chew it slowly.
In your subject’s free hand, place the vanilla-infused cotton ball. Instruct her to keep eating the apple with one hand while holding the cotton ball right under her nose with the other hand.
Once your subject finishes the apple, ask her how it tasted. It could have tasted like vanilla, apple, both, or something completely different.
If the apple mostly tasted like apple, your subject’s tongue might be her dominant taste detector. If the apple mostly tasted like vanilla, then her nose might be her dominant taste detector.
The science of smell and taste are not very well researched yet, so no one “nose” for sure what the results mean.

Explorit’s coming events:

• Dec. 18 – Jan. 2: Both floors of the museum will be open for special holiday hours.  Check out for the daily hours.
• Through Dec. 31: Make The Explorit Store your stop for holiday gifts for the whole family.  From beautiful, handcrafted silver jewelry to fascinating minerals and fossils to child-friendly microscopes, The Explorit Store is stocked with gift ideas for all ages at surprisingly reasonable prices.  Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Shoppers do not need to pay admission to shop in The Store.  Click here to see the new items.
Explorit Science Center, at 2801 Second St., has two exhibitions on display: “Move It! Science in Action” and “Wheels to Wings.”  Admission is $4 general, free for teachers, and ages 3 and under.  The museum is open to school groups by reservation and to the general public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit

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