Our fifth taste

"This food tastes 'yummy'," might be the way that someone describes a favorite dish that includes tomatoes, mushrooms, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. 

The fifth taste : cooking with Umami
David Kasabian & Anna Kasabian.
New York, N.Y. : Universe, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
It must've been something I ate : the return of The man who ate everything
Jeffrey Steingarten.
New York : Vintage Books, 2003.
In this outrageous and delectable new volume, the Man Who Ate Everything proves that he will do anything to eat everything. That includes going fishing for his own supply of bluefin tuna belly; nearly incinerating his oven in pursuit of the perfect pizza crust, and spending four days boning and stuffing three different fowl #8212;into each other-- to produce the Cajun specialty called #8220;turducken. #8221; It Must #8217;ve Been Something I Ate finds Steingarten testing the virtues of chocolate and gourmet salts; debunking the mythology of lactose intolerance and Chinese Food Syndrome; roasting marrow bones for his dog , and offering recipes for everything from lobster rolls to gratin dauphinois. The result is one of those rare books that are simultaneously mouth-watering and side-splitting.
The new food lover's companion : more than 6,700 A-to-Z entries describe foods, cooking techniques, herbs, spices, desserts, wines, and the ingredients for pleasurable dining
Sharon Tyler Herbst, Ron Herbst.
Hauppage, N.Y. : Barron's Educational Series, Inc., c2007.
The fourth edition of this widely praised reference guide includes hundreds of cooking tips plus an extensive bibliography of recommended cookbooks and other food-related literature. Here in one volume is an invaluable companion for cooks--and for anyone who loves good food.
The Herbfarm cookbook : a guide to the vivid flavors of fresh herbs
Jerry Traunfeld ; botanical watercolors of herbs by Louise Smith ; illustrations by Elayne Sears ; color photographs by Jonelle Weaver.
New York : Scribner, c2000.
Not so long ago, parsley was the only fresh herb available to most American cooks. Today, bunches of fresh oregano and rosemary can be found in nearly every supermarket, basil and mint grow abundantly in backyards from coast to coast, and garden centers offer pots of edible geraniums and lemon thyme. But once these herbs reach the kitchen, the inevitable question arises: Now what do I do with them? Here, at last, is the first truly comprehensive cookbook to cover all aspects of growing, handling, and cooking with fresh herbs. Jerry Traunfeld grew up cooking and gardening in Maryland, but it wasn't until the 1980s, after he had graduated from the California Culinary Academy and was working at Jeremiah Tower's Stars restaurant in San Francisco, that he began testing the amazing potential of herb cuisine. For the past decade, Jerry Traunfeld has been chef at The Herbfarm, an enchanted restaurant surrounded by kitchen gardens and tucked into the rainy foothills of the Cascade Mountains, east of Seattle. His brilliant nine-course herb-inspired menus have made reservations at the Herbfarm among the most coveted in the country. Eager to reveal his magic to home cooks, Jerry Traunfeld shares 200 of his best recipes in The Herbfarm Cookbook. Written with passion, humor, and a caring for detail that makes this book quite special, The Herbfarm Cookbook explains everything from how to recognize the herbs in your supermarket to how to infuse a jar of honey with the flavor of fresh lavender. Recipes include a full range of dishes from soups, salads, eggs, pasta and risotto, vegetables, poultry, fish, meats, breads, and desserts to sauces, ice creams, sorbets, chutneys, vinegars, and candied flowers. On the familiar side are recipes for Bay Laurel Roasted Chicken and Roasted Asparagus Salad with Fried Sage explained with the type of detail that insures the chicken will be moist and suffused with the flavor of bay and the asparagus complemented with the delicate crunch of sage. On the novel side you will find such unusual dishes as Oysters on the Half Shell with Lemon Varbana Ice and Rhubarb and Angelica Pie. A treasure trove of information, The Herbfarm Cookbook contains a glossary of 27 of the most common culinary herbs and edible flowers; a definitive guide to growing herbs in a garden, a city lot, or on a windowsill; a listing of the USDA has hardiness zones; how to harvest, clean, and store fresh herbs; a Growing Requirements Chart, including each herb's life cycle, height, pruning and growing needs, and number of plants to grow for an average kitchen; and a Cooking with Fresh Herbs Chart, with parts of the herb used, flavor characteristics, amount of chopped herb for six servings, and best herbal partners. The Herbfarm Cookbook is the most complete, inspired, and useful book about cooking with herbs ever written. * 8 pages of finished dishes in full color * 16 full-page botanical watercolors in full color

These are three of the many foods that contain a naturally occurring protein, umami, which affects the taste of foods.

Everyone knows the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.  But many have not heard of umami which has been called “the fifth taste.”  It is produced through the amino acid, L-glutamate, and taste receptors on our tongues that sense and respond to glutamate.

L-glutamate (glutamic acid), unlike Monosodium Glutamate or MSG which is manufactured, occurs naturally in foods during cooking, aging, or drying.  The taste of umami itself is subtle. It blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavours

A single taste bud contains about 100 taste cells representing all taste sensations. In 1974, taste research came with the realization that taste qualities are found in all areas of the tongue.

Tongue map

Umami may be used to help consumers eat healthier.  Consumers are reading packaging labels and trying to avoid certain additives such as salt, sugar, and artificial ingredients.  Food and drug companies might use the knowledge of the umami taste to design additives that will enhance certain flavors or tastes and block others.  Some packaged-food companies are using this to make low-sodium foods taste better.

Other foods found in most kitchens that might provide the umami taste are ketchup, corn, peas, potatoes, almonds and sunflower seeds.  Aged cheese, older wines, sea vegetables, fish and shellfish are good sources.  Some prepared sauces, such as, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fish sauce, will provide this taste.  These foods can be found in the dishes of many cultures and recipes. 

Umami is changing the way many chefs think about taste and foods.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff