Why Rain Doesn’t Taste As Good As It Smells
by Trisha Leigh
Even if you’re someone who isn’t fond of dreary days, or maybe as a healthy fear of thunderstorms, there’s a good chance you still enjoy taking a big whiff of the smell of those first raindrops on the breeze.
If you’ve ever had a moment of whimsy and stuck your tongue out to taste the rain, though, you know it doesn’t taste good at all – but why?
YouTuber Adam Ragusea took a look at rain’s natural components to get to the bottom of how something that smells so good can taste so bad.
To do this, he captured some rainwater and then worked with parfumer Harrison Sherwood to parse all of the scents that combined inside the vial.
Sherwood described the flavor as “beetroot and cod.” The pairing is due to a chemical compound called Geosimine.
“Chemically, it is a bicyclic alcohol and a terpene, or actually I think it’s a terpenoid because it has oxygen in it. And as is the case with many such terpenes and terpenoids it has oxygen in it. And as is the case with many such terpenes and terpenoids from the food and drink world, we are very sensitive to this. …Geosmin is a major component of a mixture of smells known as Petrichor. …Petrichor encompasses some other smells of rain, …But arguably the dominant smell within petrichor is Geosmin, which is not made by plants. Geosmin is made by bacteria.”
Sherwood says geosmin is the reason that foods might taste “muddy,” which turns most people off.
“When you have tongue signals, plus nose signals, we call that flavor. That’s now well known, but your brain integrates that in a certain way, that potentially gives different results in terms of emotion. So Geosmin through nose plus nothing on tongue equals good. Geosmin through nose plus salty taste or whatever equals muddy fish.”
This is why he initially compared the taste to beets.
“It all comes from the ground, and the bacteria that produce Geosmin are in the ground. And so some of that gets into the food, and there’s certain foods that tend to concentrate a particularly large amount of Geosmin and beets are one of them – but also certain greens, like spinach and some lettuce. And if you ever think to yourself, this vegetable tastes like dirt, you aren’t wrong.”
So, just enjoy the smell and leave the taste testing for snowflakes.
As long as they’re not yellow.