Research from Syngenta‘s Jealott’s Hill international research centre is helping develop tastier vegetable varieties.
Over the past five years researchers have been investigating the components of taste and flavour and how they could be manipulated, the company’s produce quality specialist Charles Baxter said.
“We know 25% of flavour comes from soluble metabolites, such as sugars in plants, while 75% comes from volatile metabolites – compounds that are released in the mouth or that you can smell before you eat the vegetable.”
By identifying these compounds the researchers believe they can manipulate taste. For example, in brassicas, glucosinolates gave a bitter flavour, Dr Baxter said. “We can measure these, screen for them in our breeding material, and manipulate their abundance within breeding programmes.”
The results are just starting to come through in new varieties, such as a milder-tasting cabbage variety, Balada.
The changes could, however, affect agronomic characteristics, he noted. “Bitter compounds are linked with insect resistance, so we’re trying to find out which ones have a specific role in insect resistance, but not taste. Some glucosinolates also have specific health benefits, so we’re also identifying those.”