Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Berry flavourful?


March 27, 2009
By Fruit & Vegetable

Topics

Fresh strawberries – just the mention of this iconic spring and early
summer fruit can elicit mouthwatering memories of shortcake, fruity
drinks and sweet desserts. Researchers interested in learning more
about this evocative fruit have determined that “sensory quality” of
strawberries, a strong influence on consumer preferences, is the result
of a complex balance of sweetness, aroma, texture, and appearance.

brry_flavourfull 
Sensory evaluation surveys conducted by researchers with the University of Florida showed that tasters determined a high variation among strawberries in terms of flavour, sweetness, and
tartness preferences.


 

Fresh strawberries – just the mention of this iconic spring and early summer fruit can elicit mouthwatering memories of shortcake, fruity drinks and sweet desserts. Researchers interested in learning more about this evocative fruit have determined that “sensory quality” of strawberries, a strong influence on consumer preferences, is the result of a complex balance of sweetness, aroma, texture, and appearance.

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The goals of a recent study by a research team from the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma, Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Winter Haven, Florida, were to reveal factors affecting the “eating quality” of promising strawberry selections in the University of Florida breeding program, as well as the impact of harvest date on the fruits’ chemical and sensory characteristics.

According to lead author Anne Plotto of the USDA-ARS, the researchers evaluated five selections and one cultivar of the University of Florida breeding program as well as two new cultivars from Australia (Rubygem and Sugarbaby).

The sensory study took place at the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center during 2006 and 2007. Participants were employees from, and visitors to, the center. In 2006, 50 and 51 panelists participated in the February and March panels, respectively, with 62 per cent to 63 per cent female panelists. In 2007, 60 to 66 panelists (36 per cent to 52 per cent female panelists) participated in the taste panels. Panelist ages ranged from younger than 26 to older than 65 years old, with the majority of panelists between 36 and 55 years old.

The sensory evaluation showed that tasters determined a high variation among strawberries in terms of flavour, sweetness, and tartness preferences. Festival, the main strawberry cultivar grown in Florida, had low ratings for flavour and sweetness in January and March. Selection FL 00-51 (now named Florida Elyana) and Rubygem had relatively high and consistent ratings for flavour and sweetness compared with the other selections.

“This study shows that aroma volatiles and sugar levels must be balanced to ensure a flavour appealing to consumers,” said Plotto. “Although germplasm strongly influenced volatile composition and perceived flavour, harvest date and season were also found to be an important factor influencing strawberry composition. Genotypes with low flavour ratings were most often judged as ‘not sweet enough’ by the panelists, thus linking flavour to sweetness preference.”

The complete study and abstract of this study are available on the ASHS J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. electronic journal web site at http://journal.ashspublications.org.