Bone Marrow – The Buttery Delight

7 September 2020

The creamy, buttery delight that is bone marrow is underappreciated in our modern world, although this was not always the case. In fact, it’s believed that bone marrow would’ve been one of the first animal foods we would’ve eaten around 2 million years ago, before our hunting days when we were mere scavengers.

At that point, our Homo habilis ancestors were no more than 4ft tall and had much smaller brains than we do now. They wouldn’t have had the intellect nor strength to hunt big animals, so they had to settle for the scraps making use of tools to break open bones and skulls to get to the calorie-dense good stuff inside.

This may be the key that lead to our little ancestors developing larger brains and bigger and stronger bodies until we could hunt for our food and make use of the whole beast.

Despite this, bone marrow these days are generally left to the dogs which – in my opinion – is a great shame. That said, there’s one advantage for you and me… Butchers are almost giving marrow filled bones away.


What is Bone Marrow?

Many bones have a hollow centre that’s filled with a spongy tissue called bone marrow.

There are 2 types of bone marrow:

  • Red (myeloid tissue) – the blood cell producing factory. It contains stem cells that make red and white blood cells. Over 200 billion new blood cells are produced in bone marrow – every day!
  • Yellow (fatty tissue) – which helps to store fat.

This is a very basic summary but if you’re interested in a more detailed explanation, try here.

The point is that our bone marrow plays a vital role, and, when its function is compromised – as we see in people with blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma or with sickle cells anaemia – our lives are threatened and marrow transplants may be our only option.


Nutritional Data

It seems that bone marrow is so underappreciated that there’s little nutritional information available. Usually, a quick DuckDuckGo search on any food type reveals a whole world nutritional data, but not so with bone marrow.

So, after a little delving, I found this study that looked at nutrient levels in reindeer. It found that the bone marrow was rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, and vitamin E, as well as being an incredibly high source of calcium.

There’s talk of other nutrients that are contained in bone marrow, such as glycine, glucosamine and chondroitin, but it’s all very woolly. There clearly needs more research is required to know for sure.

It’s certainly a very fatty animal part, which – in my opinion – shouldn’t scare you off. We’ve been eating animal fats for many, many years and our bodies are finely tuned utilise this energy source… Plus, animal fat tastes amazing.

My hunch is that – as with eating other parts of the beast – there are many health-promoting nutrients and will complement a nose-to-tail way of eating.


The Health Benefits of Eating Bone Marrow

I’ve mentioned before that eating a particular part of an animal will aid the health of the part in your own body, and this article proves this is the case.

A Swedish oncologist – Dr Brohult – tried giving calves’ marrow to children that had radiation to treat their leukaemia in an attempt to kick start their bone marrow into producing white blood cells with some promising success.

As it turns out – after further investigation – this is due to something called alkylglycerols (AKGs) that can be found in organs responsible for producing blood cells such as bone marrow and the spleen.


History, Cuisines and Cultures

Apart from being one of the first parts of the animal that our ancestors would’ve consumed in their scavenger days, bone marrow has featured heavily in many cultures and historical periods.

There are recipes dating back to medieval times documenting the use of bone marrow in ‘sluberkens‘ – small pasties stuffed with marrow and sugar, and stuffed quinces – a type of pear that’s cored then stuffed with marrow and currents then stewed.

Of course, the Italians are not afraid of parts of the animal that have fallen out of favour in modernized parts of the world. A traditional Milanese dish called Ossobucco – meaning ‘bone with the hole’ – makes use of veal shank where the meat on the bone is cut into thick slices and slow-cooked. During the cooking, the marrow melts into the tomato-based sauce adding to the sumptuousness.

The French – well known for their culinary expertise – can be caught using bone marrow for many dishes from onion soup with roasted marrow bones, to roast marrow bone and crispy ox tongue, which you’ll find in Michel Roux Jr’s recipe book ‘Les Abats’.

Allegedly – in Scandinavian countries – parents will be found serving up bone marrow soup to their kids to boost their health and strength.

Pop over to the other side of the pond to Mexico and you may find bone marrow gracing your plate in the form of ‘bone marrow tacos‘. Served roasted in the bone ready to be scooped out and used as a taco filling. The Mexicans have long been gobbling this stuff up for its added taste and texture.

And. if you seek out bone marrow recipes, you’ll be sure to stumble across a dish called ‘Pho’… a Vietnamese broth of beef, noodles and bone marrow. Although, this article has cast doubt in my mind as to how traditional this combo is, suggesting bone marrow doesn’t belong in this dish. That said, it wouldn’t stop me from giving it a try if it was on the menu.


Keeping it Simple

Me, I like to keep things simple. I either get some bones from my butcher, Deersbrook Farm. Or, I buy them from Waitrose through Ocado. Although, recently Ocado have dumped Waitrose for M&S who don’t sell prepared marrow bones… hey ho!.

Anyway, I roast the bones in the oven at 220⁰C (430⁰F) for around 15 minutes until it’s just crispy on the surface. Season with salt, scoop out with a teaspoon and slurp it up… yummy!

You’ll quickly understand why it’s nicknamed ‘meat butter’… it’s so moreish.

To be honest, I find it hard to understand why marrow is scoffed at these days when something can taste this good…

…I get it with some offal, we’re now so far removed from eating the likes of liver, kidney or heart not to mention such things as tongue and testicles, but bones are not that out of the ordinary.

So if you’re a little nervous about trying bone marrow… Don’t be. Suck it up and give it a try… You won’t regret it, trust me.

A little tip… there’ll be a good amount of fat left in the baking dish – do not chuck it! It’s perfect for roasting or frying your next meal.


Have a nutritious day!


There you have it! Just a reminder that I’m no doctor, dietitian or any other profession for that matter. I’m simply a bearer of information for you to do what you want with; question it, research it, erase it from your mind, you are in charge of you.

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