POTATO FLAVOUR

While almost everybody enjoys the flavour of potatoes there is still room for improvement, especially if potatoes are to maintain their popularity in an increasingly diverse marketplace.   However, efforts to improve the flavour of potatoes are complicated by the fact that the flavour of potatoes is complex and there is little agreement as to exactly what makes for a “good” tasting potato.  The flavour of potatoes is influenced by genetics, production and storage practices as well as cooking methods.    While an “acceptable” flavour is required of any newly developed potato cultivar, the focus of most modern breeding programs has been on superior yields and processing characteristics.   Breeding to enhance flavour should be possible as there is considerable variability in the flavour within the popular commercialized varieties as well as in less developed Andean land races of potato.   Growing conditions and production practices can have subtle effects on potato flavour.   Stressful growing conditions (heat, drought etc) can lead to the accumulation of bitter glycoalkaloids.  Sulfur containing compounds typically have strong flavours, therefore soil sulphur levels may influence the flavour profile.  Similarly high soil potassium levels are thought to enhance potato flavour.  Certain microbes present in the soil may also contribute to the “earthy” flavour tones characteristics of potatoes.  Cooking causes very significant changes in potato flavour, with each cooking method yielding a different flavour profile.   In general, microwaving is considered to produce a less favourable flavour profile than baking or boiling.   In processed potatoes (chips and fries) the oil type used has relatively little impact on development of potato flavours but can contribute undesirable flavour notes such as rancidity.   While the flavour of processed potatoes deteriorates quite quickly during storage, there are few consistent changes in the flavour of boiled or baked potatoes as a function of time in storage.

Source: Jansky (2010).  Amer. J. Potato Res. 87: 209-217.