Sensory quality and strawberries

Friday, 27 February, 2009

Researchers interested in learning more about strawberries have determined that the sensory quality of strawberries, a strong influence on consumer preferences, is the result of a complex balance of sweetness, aroma, texture and appearance.

The goals of a recent study by a research team from the University of Florida's Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) 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 centre.

The sensory evaluation showed that tasters determined a high variation among Florida 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.

Plotto summarised the results, stating: "This study shows that aroma volatiles and sugar levels must be balanced to ensure a flavour appealing to consumers. 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."

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