Why Do Fermented Foods Taste So Good?

Hand-selected ingredients from trusted local growers are part of why Buckman Brines fermented foods taste so delicious. But our secret weapon? Umami!

Umami is one of the five basic tastes (along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter). Umami is that lip-smacking sensation when eating savory foods like sauteed mushrooms, aged cheeses, broths, grilled meats, and fermented vegetables.

The umami taste is triggered when certain receptors on the tongue come into contact with glutamates. Glutamates occur naturally in many foods. It’s theorized that umami taste evolved to help some animals–including humans–distinguish foods that are rich in amino acids. Savory foods tend to have higher concentrations of healthy amino acids, which is also true of many fermented foods.

The fermentation process naturally produces glutamates, increasing the savoriness of the fermented food. That’s why a plain cucumber tastes rather bland compared to a lip-smacking, savory pickle that’s been fermenting for a few days. 

What is “glutamate,” exactly?

Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in our brains and nervous systems. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that primes our neurons for activation. Glutamate is also a precursor to GABA, another neurotransmitter that is inhibitory, rather than excitatory.

Is glutamate related to MSG?

Some foods contain an artificial food additive called Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), which enhances the savory taste of the food. Buckman Brines doesn’t use MSG, or any food additives (we don’t have to, our umami taste is all natural!). But yes, the glutamate in MSG is the same that occurs naturally in food, only it’s a lot more concentrated in MSG. Both natural glutamates and glutamate additives like MSG are safe to consume, although some people report a sensitivity to MSG consumption. The concentration of healthy dietary glutamate that occurs naturally in fermented foods is believed to be too low to trigger a sensitivity.

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