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Indulge your Umami

written by Guest Blogger November 21, 2010

Editor’s Note: Yes, we all have umami – it was news to me, too! Our regular guest blogger & flexitarian cook, Bindu Grandhi, tells us what it is and shares a delicious tomato and carrot appetizer recipe from her cookbook.

Most of us learned in school that our sense of taste is based on four primary tastes: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. Those taste receptors are located in different areas: sweet flavors on the tip of the tongue, bitter in the back and sour on the sides.

Well it turns out there is a fifth taste and that ‘tongue map’ we were taught is totally wrong. Japanese scientists recently identified umami, that pleasant savory flavor of soy sauce, tomatoes and other foods high in glutamate.

Glutamate (a type of amino acid) and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. Umami is subtle and blends well with other flavors so we don’t even recognize its presence in food, but it plays an important role in making food tasty.

Any area of the tongue can pick up any taste, although sensitivity does vary across the tongue. Umami receptors are not only located on the tongue but also throughout the digestive tract, but their role in digestion and nutrition is still a mystery.

By the way, those bumps on your tongue aren’t taste buds but ‘fungiform papillae’ which house 50-100 buds. Scientists believe there are only a few receptor types each for sweet, sour, salty, and umami, but there are a lot more for bitter.

So I hope you’ve learned a little something about taste. After all, it’s one of the key senses that influence how delicious a dish tastes.

Experience the taste of umami in tomatoes and carrots with this umami rich recipe: Tomato Slices Topped with Sweet Onion and Carrot. Cheers!

About the Author

Author of Spice Up Your Life, Bindu Grandhi is passionate about healthy and flavourful cooking, especially when it’s flexitarian. She shares her health knowledge with the world by providing practical, healthy and tasty recipes as The Flex Cook.

Isn’t that nuts? A taste receptor we didn’t even know we had. Just goes to show that the world is so large and humans are so complex that new discoveries are just waiting for us! Did you know about umami?


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