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Umami... Umushroom.... mmmmmm!

May 2011


The secret’s out. "Umami" is the pièce de résistance of top chefs, food lovers and gourmands resort to when they want to razzle-dazzle us with dishes that simply ooze ‘deliciousness’.  

So what is umami? Everybody knows that there are four primary tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. But now it has been proven that there is a 5th primary taste, umami. Pronounced oo-MA-mee, it is derived from the Japanese words ‘umai’, meaning ‘delicious’ and ‘mi’ meaning ‘essence’. Asians have talked about umami for centuries, but it’s only recently that science has proven that the brain experiences umami as a unique taste, just like it does sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

“Umami extends the finish of savory food, making them linger on the palate longer and increasing the overall flavor,” said David and Anna Kasabian, authors of The Fifth Taste: Cooking with Umami.

AND, while many ingredients have umami, there is one that stands alone as the king of umami: fresh mushrooms!

Mushrooms not only deliver plenty of umami on their own, they actually intensify the umami of the other ingredients, an effect called “synergy.” This means that by adding mushrooms to just about any savory dish, everything else in the dish will taste even better! So the next time your mouth tingles as you begin to enjoy your favourite mushroom dish, and you’re going mmmmm…… you’ll know… That's umami!

And, because a serving of mushrooms is extremely low in calories, contain zero grams of fat, and is rich in several B vitamins, copper, the antioxidant selenium and potassium, fresh mushrooms are the ultimate trump card – delicious and angelically good for you too!   

In addition to the umami kings, mushrooms, other savoury products such as meat, cheese, broth and sauces, also contain umami.

Other Umami-rich foods are
Poultry, Beef & Pork
Turkey, Chicken and beef broth
Anchovies, Tuna, Salmon and Oysters
Garden Vegetables
Corn, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Red bell peppers and Squash
Dairy & Cheeses
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Blue-veined cheese, Emmentaler, Cheddar and Eggs
White beans, Black beans and Lentils
Fish Sauce, Tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce    
And how can you amp up the umami flavour in your everyday meals?

  • Pile umami toppings on pizza — fresh mushrooms, tomatoes and anchovies.
  • Add fresh Parmesan shavings to a mushroom soup.
  • Top a grilled chicken breast with a mushroom sauce.
  • For an even more delightful taste, try a medley of grilled mushrooms: white buttons, browns, portabellinis and oysters.  Sheer pleasure.

And finally, if you love food (and who doesn't?), chalk Umami-rich fresh cultivated mushrooms onto your weekly shopping list - Your taste buds will love you for it!


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