It’s an Old Wives’ tale that tomato seeds are bitter and must be removed before cooking a sauce or a stew. Actually the seeds are pretty flavorless, while the jelly surrounding the seeds is incredibly flavorful and contains high levels of glutamate.
Glutamate is a naturally occuring amino acid, found in all protein-containing foods such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish, and many vegetables. This amino acid is one of the most abundant and important components of proteins. Glutamate plays an important role during brain development and helps with learning and memory. Glutamate is also produced by the human body and is vital for metabolism.
Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, Umami
For human beings, taste is an indispensible survival skill. Detecting each of the five basic tastes can signal something different. For example the sweetness of sugar can signal an energy source, while a sour taste can signal danger of rotting food. Umami serves as a signal to the body that we have consumed protein, and people taste umami through receptors that respond to glutamates.
Recent studies have revealed the presence of umami receptors not only on the tongue, but also in the stomach. When food enters the stomach, and receptors detect an umami substance (glutamate), the umami information is conveyed to the brain. The brain in turn transmits a message to the stomach that triggers the digestion and absorption of protein. Thus umami is closely involved in protein digestion and absorption, giving it a vital role in our bodies.
Umami also helps to reduce salt content in cooking. Numerous studies and statistics link excessive salt intake to many different lifestyle diseases.
Since the word “umami” is originally Japanese and the Japanese expressions “to have umami” can mean “deliciousness,” “umami” is often confused with “deliciousness.”