Hass avocados, the most widely grown variety in the United States, is known for its buttery texture and nutty flavor.
Scientists have identified least 25 aromatic compounds, known as aroma volatiles, within the Hass. Until recently, they didn't know which ones contributed to the flavor, according to a news release.
A group of researchers—led by Mary Lu Arpaia, a University of California, Riverside, subtropical horticulturist—are trying to determine the kinds and concentrations of volatiles responsible for classic Hass flavor.
Preliminary studies involved solid phase microextraction and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to extract, identify and determine changes in concentrations of individual volatiles as avocados matured and ripened.
The researchers work with samples from 850 domestic and imported avocados. They analyzed more than 4,500 observations from 15-20 taste-testers.
Initial findings showed that three chemicals were responsible for the grassy flavors early in the growth of the fruit.
As the fruit matured and the compound decreased, taste-testers rated the flavors higher.
The researchers' work differs from earlier studies that focused primarily on the flavor contribution of the fruit's natural oil.
They hope their work leads to key compounds that will serve as markers breeders can use to develop new varieties with desirable flavor.
The markers also could be used by grower/packers to determine optimum harvest timing or to better manage storage and ripening.
The Pinkerton Avocado Growers Association helped fund the research, which was conducted with the help of avocado grower-shippers Mission Produce Inc. and Del Rey Avocado Co.