MSG: The Tale of a Castaway in the Middle of an Umami Movement

Umami

Over a hundred years ago, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University wondered what made kelp broth taste so good. He recognized that “There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty,” and set out to figure out what it was. He discovered that glutamate, an amino acid made by many plants and animals, was the source of this distinctive taste, and named the flavor “umami.” He was able to isolate the glutamate from the seaweed, and began to sell the crystallized form as a seasoning called Ajinomoto (which means “the essence of taste” in Japanese).

Clearing Up Common MSG Myths & Misconceptions

MSG Myths & Misconceptions

It’s time to address some common MSG myths and misconceptions. Let’s get straight to it:

MSG MYTHS

Myth: MSG is not natural.

Fact: MSG is a purified form of naturally occurring glutamate. Because glutamate doesn’t like to be alone, sodium is added to make it more stable. While this particular combination of sodium and glutamate may not be found in nature, sodium and glutamate are naturally everywhere.

Salty vs Savory – How Do Your Tastebuds Know the Difference?

Salty vs Savory

Salty and savory are two distinctly different flavors, yet they so often occur together that they can be hard to define separately. Your taste buds can still recognize each distinct component of salty vs savory even if your brain blends them together into one delicious flavor. But how?

How Does One Develop a Food Allergy?

Food Allergy

Our immune systems are generally pretty good at differentiating between dangerous invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc.) and harmless substances (pollen, peanuts, etc.), and reacting accordingly. The process sometimes fails, unfortunately, resulting in a food allergy. This happens in an estimated 4% of adults and 5% of children, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

What Does Savory Taste Like?

Most people can instantly conjure images of sweet, sour, salty or bitter foods. If I asked you to picture something sweet, you might think of a piece of cake or a perfectly ripe strawberry. Similarly, a request to define sour may make you envision YouTube clips of adorable babies trying lemons for the first time. But what if I asked you to describe a “savory taste”? Tougher, isn’t it?