I love all things bitter – this flavor profile is very under appreciated in our modernized, western food culture – the char that is the result of cooking with fire, or the intensity of chicories are examples of this bitterness I’m referring to. By knowing how to use bitterness in our cooking, we can utilize a ton of nutrient dense foods and create really complex flavors with very few ingredients.
According to Ayurveda the sense of taste is a natural guide map toward nutrition. Ayruveda classifies 6 tastes which all food can be classifies – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent.
Menu 8 incorporated many foods from the Allium family – chives, garlic, and onion, which are perfect examples of pungent tasting foods. Pungent foods can be challenging and off-putting to some people due to the intense flavor. However, these foods are so medicinal, that it is worth challenging yourself to receive their health benefits. Incorporating all the flavor profiles in each meal, or at the very least throughout the day is ideal. Salty and sweet tend to be the bodies default craving mechanism, of which the anecdote is bitter and pungent. Therefore, if you find yourself craving sweet or salty, it might mean that you are missing some of the other flavor profiles that promote balance.
Choosing a bitter or pungent food, when you are craving a sweet food, can actually quell the craving. Pungent foods create heat in the body, increase metabolism, help burn fat, and can help eliminate excess kapha and clear mucous and congestion. They are also good for people who tend to run cold, as they stimulate agni –or digestive fire, and sluggish digestion is common in people that run cold.
Due to the strong flavor, we don’t need much, as fire in excess can be drying, and too much fire can cause inflammation. Other pungent foods besides chives, garlic, and onion include: ginger, clove, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, thyme, turmeric, wasabi, horseradish, mustard seeds and greens, radishes and black pepper. Garlic, onion and chives have flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione –the body’s premier antioxidant. Glutathione enhances the elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the allium family at the top of the list in terms of cancer fighting foods. In addition to its detoxification benefits, garlic is an antimicrobial, it lowers total cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, and helps the body produce more “natural killer’ cells to fight infection and tumors.
It’s rumored to do number on vampires too!