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Bone marrow

Category: Food



Introduction and description

The bone marrow of animals was once a great delicacy but is now rarely used.

As children we had long thin handled spoons that we could use to scoop out the marrow, we even had it on toast as a supper dish – no butter, just salt. But sadly no more.

In my childhood we had no central heating at home until I was 16 and the house was heated by an old coke boiler and open fires; bone marrow soup was a wonderfully warming dish, by providing fat it gave us energy to create our own heat. No doubt this is one reason it has fallen out of favour, with centrally heated houses all that energy is no longer needed.

But bone marrow along with certain sorts of mushrooms has a role to play in helping people with bone degeneration. I have found one observation linking the constituents of bone marrow to the healing of osteoarthritis. But it may help with healing broken bones and problems like osteoporosis for similar reasons. There are good reasons for this, one is the Glucosamine in bone marrow and the other reason is the Phosphorus. In fact having bone marrow on toast [calcium] is the ideal combination for mending broken or deteriorating bones or building sturdy healthy bones in children.

And indeed sturdy is one word often used to describe me – I was knocked off my bicycle in a hit and run accident when I was 16, but no bones were broken despite him sending me half way across the road – so bone marrow on toast was a sound supper. Mums know best.


The Nutrient content of bone marrow depends largely on the animal whose bone it was, but most bone marrow is a valuable source of Iron and Phosphorus. It is quite high in lipid fats, making it rather rich. Thiamine and Niacin is often present as well as Vitamin A.



Bone marrow is still used extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe. In Vietnam, beef bone marrow is used as the soup base for the national staple dish, phở, while in the Philippines, the soup bulalo is made primarily of beef stock and marrow bones, seasoned with vegetables. In Indonesia, bone marrow is called sumsum and can be found especially in Minangkabau cuisine.

In Hungary, tibia is a main ingredient of beef soup; “the bone is chopped into 10–15 cm pieces, and the ends are covered with salt to prevent the marrow from leaking from the bone while cooking. Upon serving the soup, the marrow is usually spread on toast”. So there you go, my Mum and Hungarians knew best. In the rest of Europe, we probably know bone marrow best from the Italian dish ossobuco, which has braised veal shanks.

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