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Something To Chew On: What's Xanthan Gum?

If you're not sure what it is, you're not alone. Xanthan gum is an ingredient found on numerous food labels, but it's still quite a mystery to many of us. According to WebMD, it's "a sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria." According to the article, it's also known as Bacterial Polysaccharide, Corn Sugar Gum, Goma Xantana, Xanthan and Xanthomonas campestris. Now say that two times fast!

If you're into cooking and read food blogs, you may have seen some recipes calling for xanthan gum as an ingredient used for binding. Most of the recipes calling for it are for people who eat foods without gluten, because of celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Xanthan gum is used as an ingredient in recipes as diverse as Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Homemade Oreo Cookies.

Given the variety of specialty food stores in the Boston area, finding xanthan gum isn't as easy as one might think. Phone calls were made to several popular chain and local retailers selling health foods, but they did not carry xanthan gum. However, you can find it in a few places.

Harvest Co-op: This community-owned market is owned by members, but open to the public. They specialize in organic, natural and wholesome food choices.
581 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-661-1580

Good Health Natural Foods: This store has great customer service in addition to the selection. A quick visit to the store revealed not just one, but two types of xanthan gum.
1627 Hancock St., Quincy; 617-773-4925

Bob's Red Mill: Purchase it online. While not local, this online retailer carries all sorts of whole grains, flours and more.
13521 SE Pheasant Court, Milwaukie, OR; 800- 553-2258

Photo courtesy of star5112, Flickr
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