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"Why do organic foods taste more pungent?"

Dearest Inquisitive Cooks,

Greetings from Ft. Smith, Arkansas!!!!
My question for the day is: Why do organic foods taste more pungent than other foods?

Also, any ideas for a school science fair project comparing organic to ___? Grade levels 6th and 8th! :-)

Keep smiling and stay fit.
Susan Tooley


Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

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Dear Ms. Tooley,

You've asked a question that causes a lot of buzz and debate. In fact, we'll bet few food issues have such strong proponents on both sides. Deciding what's organic and the standards by which such foods should be grown has taken a great deal of work and time on the part of regulatory bodies. Even so, how the regulations are interpreted seems to vary among various states, provinces, and countries.

As many adults have difficulty grappling with the terms and their implications, kids in late elementary and middle-school, may have trouble getting a handle on it too.

Certainly, some of the pungency in the taste of organic as well as conventionally grown food is related to the idea of "fresh" and "local". Produce that reaches your table as fast as possible after harvest will have the finest flavors. In fact, (it's Sue speaking here) "Anne has just finished making one of the finest pots of borscht I've ever eaten with beets from a neighbor's garden so fresh and firm, that the flavor of this soup simply soared. It's sweeter than any other beet dish I've ever tasted. "Fresh" and "local" produce made this soup sing!"

Initially, your 6-8th graders might learn a lot by investigating how people taste flavors and by carrying out some tasting experiments such as detecting the four basic flavors in foods and how they are influenced what we see and smell. They'll discover there's a remarkable difference between people in their ability to detect various flavors. Once students become more experienced in "tasting" they will more easily be able to detect the nuances of flavors.

Having said that, some of the taste tests that have been done between organic and conventionally grown foods show a variety of results. And there are always many variables to control.

However, your question is a good one, so let's open up the idea to our audience and see what suggestions they bring forth for your students via the discussion forum too.

Thanks for your final caution! We're usually smiling, and are trying our darnedest to stay fit!
Anne and Sue



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