Marmite Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts

Autolysed Yeast, Yeast Extract

Marmite is the proprietary name of a concentrated yeast extract often used in vegetarian cookery to provide a ‘meaty’ flavour. The idea of making extracts from yeast was developed in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and marmite was first manufactured in England in 1902. Today it can be obtained in most countries. It is made by the autolysis of fresh brewer’s yeast with added salt. Autolysis is, of course, the process by which cells are broken down by their own enzymes. The soluble materials are separated from the insoluble cell debris and the resulting liquid evaporated under reduced pressure to give the sticky brown substance we know as Marmite. This can be redissolved in water, and it contains a high concentration of the B2 vitamin, niacin and riboflavin. Additional flavouring is provided in the form of an extract of herbs and spices. There are other products of a similar nature, but Marmite is the one usually referred to in vegetarian cookery blogs.


Lentisk, Mastich

FR: Mastic

GER: Mastix

IT: Lentischio, Mastice

SP: Almaciga, Lentisco, Mastique

BOT: Pistacia species

FAM: Anacardinaceae

Mastic is a resinous substance, usually sold in the form of ‘tears’. It is an ingredient of varnish and exudes when various trees of the genus Pistacia are wounded. One of these trees is the lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus), an untidy bush bearing dense clusters of red berries, and one of the most characteristic and abundant plants of Mediterranean hillsides. It is used as a stock for grafting pistachio trees (Pistacia vera). When wounded the lentisk produces the mastic used in eastern Mediterranean countries for chewing. A variety of lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus Chia or Latifolia) grows only on the Greek island of Chios, and from this comes a special mastic used for flavouring bread, pastries, and the Greek liqueur mastiha, which is grape spirit flavoured with Chios mastic. (See Resin.)


FR: Reine des pres, Ulmaire GER: MadesuR

IT: Olmaria, Regina dei prati

SP: Barba, de cabra Ulmaria

BOT: Filipendula ulmaria (Spiraea ulmaria)

Marmite Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts Photo Gallery

FAM: Rosaceae

This is a common flower of damp boggy meadows and bottoms near streams, and its creamy white flowers are known to everyone. The smell of the blossom is something like the smell of hawthorn (of the same family) and most people consider it sickly – even smelling it causes a headache. The plant, however, is quite harmless and is believed to be a good herbal medicine and tonic. As a flavouring, the flowers used to be added to herb beers and country wines and may be worth trying in jams, jellies and stewed fruits. The roots can be made into a bread, but in what emergency? More practically, the dried flowers may be made into a tea, which is an old-fashioned remedy for kidney disorders and rheumatism

Meat Extracts

Bouillon Cubes, Stock Cubes

Meat extracts were first made at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but it was not until after the great German chemist, Liebig, had turned his attention to the process, that the first factory was set up at Fray Bentos in Uruguay. That was in 1847. Then about 1840, Liebig had begun to interest himself in agriculture, to turn away from pure chemistry and towards matters of more obvious benefit to mankind. It was, for instance, due to his suggestion that the first artificial fertilizers were made in 1843. This was also the year of publication of Dickens’s Christmas Carol when there were still many ‘Tiny Tims’ to make serious people, like Liebig, consider the scandal of malnutrition.

If raw meat is ground up with cold water, the liquid when filtered off will contain from fifteen to twenty-five per cent of the meat in the solution. If this liquid is boiled, the albumen will be coagulated, and when this is settled, a clear soup can be drawn off: concentrated, by evaporation over gentle heat, it turns into a brown substance with the smell and taste of roasting meat. As it takes thirty-two pounds of red meat to make one pound of such an extract, pure Liebig meat extracts are very expensive.

The cheaper and common stock cubes and meat extracts contain variable amounts of genuine meat extract, mixed with salt, other meat derivatives, and monosodium glutamate to intensify the flavour. There may also be herbs, spices and flavourings, and perhaps autolysed yeast and colouring. The extract formulae and methods used are the secrets of the manufacturing companies, and the only guide for the cook is his own sense of taste, some extracts and cubes being excellent in emergency, others quite useless.

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