Thursday, August 23, 2007

Monosodium Glutamate

Recently, I wondered "Where do they get monosodium glutamate?" If you buy a jar of "Accent," or bulk MSG from a Chinese grocery store, where does it come from? Chemistry is a topic well-covered by the World Wide Web, and I found the answer soon enough. I guessed correctly from the name that monosodium glutamate is a salt of glutamic acid (an amino acid), and I learned that commerical glutamate is a product of bacterial fermentation (like yogurt), starting with molasses, sugar beets, tapioca and/or grains, and a culture of Corynebacterium glutamicum.

I was surprised that there was so much emotional baggage associated with MSG. I didn't really want to know what other people thought about MSG; I wanted to know how it was made. I had to wade through ubiquitous editorializing to find that information.


Larry said...

I'm fond of your occasional "research posts" with their accompanying link collections with commentary.

I'd also occasionally wondered about MSG and have been intrigued by accounts of the umami taste.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Thanks, Larry! I'm glad these arcane link collections are useful to someone else. One great thing about reading blogs, for me, is coming across things I wouldn't even think to wonder about otherwise. (Like Mississippi River town architecture, and the late-night happenings at the BP station.)