Sweet: apples, sweet potatoes and carrots
Sour: fermented pickles and cabbages, lemons and limes
Salty: artichokes, sea vegetables, celery and miso
Umami: mushrooms, beef, olives and asparagus
Bitter: dandelion greens, kale, collards, arugula and endive
However, bitterness, the most pungent of all flavors, is essential lost from our foods. Through hybridization, the bitter in plants has been replaced with a sweeter more subtle version. Though you may suspect this practice began only in the last 50 —100 years, it actually began with the dawn of farming and the end of foraging wild plants. Those non-hybridized wild plants still exist today — like the dandelions just starting to emerge in areas not treated with harmful chemicals. If you see them in your yard and you don't use nasty pesticides, you can simply wash 'em and toss 'em in a salad, smoothie or sauté!
The dominance of sugar-laden foods in our diet has furthered the disappearance of valuable bitter food as well. The more we favor (become addicted to?) sugar, the less we tolerate the zing of bitterness. That zing we feel on our tongue from bitter foods is also the mechanism that wakes up and engages our digestive system. Bitters stimulate and increase saliva which contains enzymes, electrolytes and antibacterial compounds and helps to moisten food. Bitters also stimulate the production of bile, crucial to the breakdown of fats.
As bitters disappear and the use sugar dominates our food supply, digestive issues grow. Make it a point to eat bitters daily. You can easily accomplish that by simply adding bitter greens to a smoothie or your salad. Another easy way to get your bitter on is to use some digestive bitters before a meal. This is the one I love and use. Using of these digestive bitters will help to:
- increase digestive enzymes and bile
- curb your sugar cravings
- relieve gas and bloating
- eliminate heartburn
- cleanse the liver
- increase your body's ability to breakdown foods and absorb nutrients