Taste-buds are located primarily on the tongue, though they are also found throughout the lining of the mouth. Thus, the term “gourmet palate” is anatomically correct. Four types of taste receptors are located around the tongue. Sweet and salty tastes are best perceived at the tip and front-sides of the tongue. Sour receptors are located on the sides of the tongue, and bitter ones toward the back. You can use this knowledge to your advantage when introducing solid foods to infants. Since babies prefer sweet and/or salty foods, place these foods on the front of your infant’s tongue so she can fully enjoy them. If your baby tends to reject the new tastes, place new foods toward the middle of the tongue where there are fewer taste receptors, and your baby’s perceptions will be less intense. After experimenting with various foods on various areas of the tongue, you will discover which combinations work. The fact that the bitter taste buds are located at the back of the tongue may be an adaptive phenomenon for primarily plant-eating humans, since nutritious plants tend to be sweet and poisonous plants tend to be bitter. When intensely bitter plants touch the back of the tongue, they may trigger the gag reflex as a protective mechanism and be spit out.
Cold temperatures numb taste buds, which is why frozen yogurt tastes much sweeter when melted. To get your child to accept an unpleasant-tasting medicine, trick the taste buds by letting your child suck on a popsicle, ice, or anything cold just before giving the medicine. Salt dilutes sour tastes, which is why it is added to vinegar-containing dressings.
Taste buds change their preferences with age. While infants and young children prefer sweet foods in most cases, this young sweet tooth diminishes as a person ages.