What is “Umami”

Mushrooms have a deliciously rich, savoury flavour, enjoyed by many people around the world. We often hear that the range of tastes in food include salty, bitter, sweet and sour. The rich savoury flavour which mushrooms have is referred to as ‘umami’. The umami taste has been accepted as the fifth basic taste. The peculiar umami taste of edible mushrooms is the reason for their frequent use as a flavour enhancer in new food product development. Many scientific investigations have been carried out on the umami components of mushrooms from various perspectives: food science, biochemistry, psychophysics, neurophysiology, physiology and nutrition. Much of the umami flavour comes from the natural glutamates. The combination of glutamate and a savoury odour links both the taste and smell neural pathways in the brain, resulting in a very pleasant and satisfying flavour.

What is glutamate?

Glutamate is an amino acid, found in all protein-containing foods. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Glutamate occurs naturally in foods such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish, and some vegetables. Glutamate is also produced by the human body and is vital for metabolism and brain function.

The glutamate level in the mushroom increases as the mushroom matures from a button to a flat mushroom. Hence flat mushrooms have more flavour than small button mushrooms

When extra glutamate is added to food, the salt content can be reduced by 30-40% without affecting the palatability.

Is glutamate related to gluten?

Glutamate also shouldn’t be confused with gluten. MUSHROOMS ARE GLUTEN FREE.

Is glutamate the same as MSG?

The natural free glutamates in mushrooms are not to be confused with the monosodium glutamate (MSG) sometimes added to foods as a flavour enhancer. There is no MSG in mushrooms.