Scientists at theUniversity of Florida, studying why blueberries "aromatics" taste good, found that they contain the right genetic combination to produce the chemistry needed for a pleasant flavor of blueberry.
Breeders at blueberries have long known that the fruits they select, classified as "aromatic," have natural chemical components that make the fruit taste different, said Patricio Muñoz, UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences.
"These metabolites are part of a category we call 'volatile organic compounds' because they explode with the flavor of the fruit when you crunch it in your mouth," he added.
Under Muñoz's supervision, Haley Sater, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, conducted the study, which combines information from UF's sensory panels with biochemical and molecular information.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO IDENTIFY BLUEBERRIES "AROMATICS"
Through research, scientists have identified potential candidate genes that control terpene production in certain types of blueberries. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants.
To arrive at their findings, they selected two groups of varieties of blueberries: traditional blueberries varieties and "aromatic" varieties.
Charles Sims, professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, then conducted a taste test in which tasters were asked if they could detect any special characteristics in blueberries and, if so, to describe them. In addition, the tasters were asked if they liked the fruit.
Consumers correctly identified the special blueberries aromatics and described them using different words such as "floral," "fruity," "blueberry (flavor)," "strong," and others. Most tasters liked the blueberries.
"Once we analyzed the panel data, we saw that consumers liked the aromatic varieties of blueberries more than the non-aromatic varieties," Muñoz said. "Once we got this information, we tried to figure out where this characteristic originated."
At this point, the scientists put together the information from the molecular markers with data on volatile organic compounds and found that the aromatic varieties contained higher amounts of terpenes, which provide aromas related to floral, sweet, citrus, and fresh.
"We now know why these varieties of blueberry make the fruit aromatic," Muñoz said. "We are now able to use these compounds to formally classify varieties as aromatic. We can predict consumer liking and preference for these varieties."