Food for Thought: Marvelous Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a savory quality that curso bolo no pote gourmet associated with protein—known as umami. Chef Instructor Bill Briwa teaches you how to take advantage of this flavor by incorporating them into your favorite recipes.

Mushrooms are not vegetables although they are often referred to as such. They are a unique plant food in that they are very low in carbohydrates because they can’t photosynthesize sugars.

Mushrooms have a savory quality that is associated with protein. The Japanese call this quality umami. If you’re only cooking vegetables, you might discover that you miss the savory flavor associated with animal protein. You can take advantage of the umami flavor inherent in mushrooms by incorporating mushrooms into the recipes that you cook.

The Taste of Umami: Our Fifth Taste

Although recognized and appreciated in ancient world cuisine for more than 2,000 years, the unique taste of umami was not identified as its own flavor until about 100 years ago.

In 1908, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University revealed a distinctive savory taste that became known as our fifth taste. He found this taste to be common across asparagus, tomatoes, cheese, and meat—something clearly distinct from sweet, sour, bitter and salty, our four established tastes.

This discovery led to years of debate as to whether umami was its own separate unique taste or if it was simply an intensified version of one or more of the other four tastes. After years of research, it was proven that multiple taste receptors are implicated in the mechanism of umami taste, so it had been clearly defined that umami is an independent taste phenomenon.

The discovery of “umami” in foods led to the development of products and ingredients that duplicate that savory and appealing taste, creating a broader range of culinary options for consumers to enjoy.

Mushrooms are again unique in that they contain Vitamin B12, something that vegetables can’t produce at all. Vegetarians who don’t eat any meat products may find this a useful way of getting this important nutrient. Nutritionally, mushrooms are also a good source of niacin—containing as much as in meat. Niacin helps body cells obtain energy from food. Mushrooms also contribute some dietary fiber and small amounts of many of the other B-complex vitamins including folate. (B vitamins are important for healthy cells and tissues and help the body use the energy from proteins, fats and carbohydrates). Mushrooms have virtually no fat and are therefore very low in kilojoules and like all vegetables they are a cholesterol free food.

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