The human tongue is covered with thousands of small bumps called papillae. Within each papilla are hundreds of taste buds—the sensory organs that relay flavors and other impressions of food to the nerves and brain. Each taste bud contains 50 to 100 taste receptor cells.
AVRDC headquarters staff recently had the opportunity to exercise their taste buds in the name of science by contributing their opinions on the taste, aroma, texture and appearance of vegetable soybean (Glycine max, 27 November 2013); red and high-beta carotene cherry tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme, 5 December); mustard (Brassica juncea, 6 December); and radish (Raphanus sativus, December 9) during organoleptic tests set up by plant breeding and genebank staff in the AVRDC cafeteria. Participants sampled the vegetables and rated each according to their individual preferences.
Organoleptic data helps vegetable breeders better understand why consumers choose one vegetable variety over another. They use the information to enhance those qualities and ultimately produce vegetables suited for local market preferences. Nutritious vegetable varieties with resistance to pests and diseases, the ability to withstand drought, flooding and other extreme weather conditions—and the qualities of taste, texture, color and shape that consumers want—can increase the yield, sales and incomes of vegetable farmers.