This is one of the most common questions that I get when I work on the cheese counter. My answer: yes, usually I do. Pretty much all cheese rinds are easily digestible. The primary exceptions are cloth-bound and wax rinds. After that, it’s pretty much personal preference.
A rule of thumb – cheeses tend to get stronger the closer you get to the rind and the rind itself will be the strongest tasting part of the cheese. If you are tasting a cheese for the first time and aren’t sure whether you will like it, start with a nibble from the center-most part of the ‘paste.’ Then, if you like what you are tasting, gradually work your way outwards. If you like all of the paste, give the rind a go!
Having eaten cheese for a while now, I know there are some rinds I definitely don’t like, rinds that most folks don’t eat: Parmigiano Reggiano is one example (grilled parm rinds are an exception!) and Comté is another, even though it has a natural rind. My stomach could digest them – I just don’t like the way they taste or feel in my mouth. That said, there are some cheeses I love that are particularly scrumptious, in my opinion, because they have delicious rinds. Among these, I would include Tomme Crayeuse, Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue and Ardrahan.
They are all very different styles of cheese – Tomme Crayeuse is semi-soft cheese and has a very earthy, mushroom-y flavor profile, underscored by its natural rind.
Bayley Hazen is a medium-strength blue cheese that tastes really nutty – the rind is like a distilled version of this fantastic nuttiness. Ardrahan is an Irish, washed-rind cheese. Its rind is brine-washed and this saltiness shows through – sometimes enough to
make me think of the ocean while sometimes it manifests itself in more of a peanut-y flavor. Either way, it is really snackable (oh, and great with beer!).
My advice – give the rind a try! If you don’t like it, you’ll know for next time. On the other hand, you may just discover another reason to love a cheese!