Herbal KnowledgeFeb 2, 2022
Tasting the Berry That’s Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami All at Once
Quick, think of a blueberry. Think of what it’s like to pop the thin skin with your teeth. That momentary burst of mild sour tartness. Then a bright sweet flavor that spreads across your tongue. Can you picture it? Is your mouth watering just a little? This is what it’s like to eat something with just 2 flavors. Sour and sweet. Now get ready to imagine a berry that has 5 flavors.
No, this isn’t the result of a bad biochemistry experiment. No, this isn’t some bit of Willy Wonka fiction. It’s real. It’s called Schisandra and it’s amazing. Let’s explore what it tastes like.
First, two sentences of background: Schisandra is a Chinese berry used for thousands of years to support the body’s natural immune systems.* It’s included in many of our immune products and as a single herbal extract all on its own.
Now, let’s dive in.
Schisandra berries grow in bunches like grapes, except they’re red and the size of wild blueberries. When we get them they’re dried, wrinkly and a dark reddish purple color. Like a smaller, rounder, darker dried cranberry.
Got it? Now picture putting one of those little things on your hand. Smell it and it just has the aroma of most other berries. Light and fruity. The secret of its amazing flavor is still safe.
If you pick it apart with your fingers, you’ll see it’s thin and tough like a raisin but it has two seeds in the middle. These are only like 2 centimeters long. So it’s a bit like if you cut a grain of rice in half and laid the two bits next to each other. Except they’re a bit more kidney-shaped. The seeds should be a little oily.
Here's what dried Schisandra berries look like just before you pop one into your mouth.
So, it’s like a rounder dried cranberry with two tiny kidney-shaped seeds inside. Now, pop the berry in your mouth and bite.
First comes the sour. It’s tart like a green tomato. Like a tomato that’s still not quite ripe. Then you notice the sweet and salty. Sweet like a plum, like a prune. And salty like the whole thing was lightly dusted. Then your teeth cut through the seed and the flavor turns bitter like eating leafy green. Like kale or arugula. Then the flavor gets an edge of umami like mulling spices. Like clove.
Then poof, you swallow it and only the salty, savory aftertaste remains. Then someone asks you to describe it and you say, “Tastes like a salted tomato dunked in plum juice wrapped in kale next to a crockpot of mulled cider.”
That’s Schisandra. Incredible, right?