A Vegetable Unexpectedly Rich in Umami

A common powerhouse ingredient you probably enjoy anyways

There are some vegetables that I have always known to be rich in umami: sea vegetables like kombu or nori, or mushrooms like shiitake and shimeji. These vegetables are staples in my home, and have been a fundamental part of Japanese food for thousands of years.

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

When it comes to fresh vegetables, tomatoes easily rank among the best in umami richness

When it comes to fresh vegetables, tomatoes easily rank among the best in umami richness: measured scientifically they have about 250mg of glutamic acid (units used to measure umami content) per 100g. The fresh vegetables that next come close to this amount, excluding sea vegetables and mushrooms, are green peas, lotus root, or garlic, which have less than half this amount at about 110mg per 100g. A still excellent amount, but moderate in comparison to tomatoes.

Why tomatoes are universally loved

This isn’t necessarily surprising, considering that historically tomatoes have been used in a variety of cuisines for centuries. It’s quite obvious to think about the impact it’s had on Italian dishes, being one of the bases on which all other flavors are built upon, and of course neighboring European and north African cuisines such as Spain, Israel, Morocco, and Turkish dishes. If you go back to where tomatoes originated, the Americas, it’s also easy to identify how tomatoes have shaped Mexican, Chilean, Peruvian, and other Central and South American cuisines.

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Raised in Tokyo; living in the US. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: www.kakikata.space 🌱

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