Mastering Umami Flavor

The complex flavor profile of the Sakata specialty tomato program

Umami /uːˈmɑːmi/ – a savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty).

What is Umami?

The term, ‘umami,’ was first coined in Japan by Professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, and has since become a prevalent reference, and coveted flavor profile, in Japanese culture. The rough translation from the Japanese phrase is ‘pleasant, savory taste,’ or ‘delicious taste.’ Umami flavor has created a widespread debate amongst scientists since its inception as to whether or not it should be considered one of the basic tastes. Umami flavor cannot be categorized as sweet, sour, bitter or salty, and therefore, is in a class of its own.

Commonly described as pleasantly ‘brothy’ or ‘meaty,’ umami embodies a unique and savory mixture of multiple tastes. Examples of food with umami flavor are fish, shellfish, cured meats, cheeses, shrimp pastes, soy sauce, mushrooms and vegetables, such as tomatoes, spinach and celery. Its long-lasting and mouthwatering characteristics create a distinct flavor profile that complements a range of dishes. The umami flavor has become so popular, in fact, that the term is now widely used amongst top food manufacturers such as Nestlé, Campbell’s and Frito-Lay. A popular present-day paradigm of umami flavor is ketchup, which is, of course, derived from tomatoes.

Embracing Umami Flavor

Rooted in Japan, our specialty tomato program was developed with this popular Japanese flavor in mind. Throughout the development of the specialty tomato program, a large emphasis was placed on achieving and perfecting umami flavor in our tomatoes.  In a market filled with gas and plastic tomatoes that sacrifice flavor to meet demand, consumers craved the savory tomato taste that made the vegetable so popular. Former President of Sakata Japan, Mr. Hideo Takahashi, recognized this need and  was instrumental in working with both the Japanese and North American specialty tomato teams to bring his knowledge and insight to the effort toward achieving the perfect tomato. Umami quickly became not only a desired flavor, but a highly recognizable term in the specialty tomato market. The sought-after flavor profile is one of the main characteristics that sets Sakata specialty tomatoes apart from competitors’ and is paramount in the continued development of quality, hearty and flavor-fillled genetics.  For a paradigm of classic umami flavor, try varieties such as Sweet HeartsThink PinkBelliniSolid Gold or Oranjestar – just to name a few!

For more information regarding the Sakata specialty tomato program and popular varieties, please see the Top Crop page.