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Does storage affect the taste of your potato?

29 July 2011

A two-year trial undertaken at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR) to monitor taste and texture of stored potatoes has shown clear differences according to variety.

Peeled, steamed potatoes were tasted by a panel of judges in January or May each year, looking for the effects of carbon dioxide on stored potatoes.

Undertaken to examine occasional incidences of unsatisfactory storage in which carbon dioxide, with or without other atmospheric components, had been implicated, the research brought out some interesting results.

According to Dr Glyn Harper from SBCSR, who led the research, the most important taste and texture differences were explained by variety, time in storage and trial year.

The three varieties studied were Maris Piper, Marfona and Estima, with each being exposed to levels of carbon dioxide atmosphere from ambient (0.03 per cent) to six per cent. Previous research has shown that typical levels of carbon dioxide within a store are approximately 0.5 per cent.

The effect of ethylene at 10 ppm, at each carbon dioxide concentration was also examined. Exposure was for 37 days and took place either early or late in a storage season. Following the exposure, samples were immediately delivered to a commercial company specialising in taste and texture analysis. The tubers were peeled and cooked by steaming. The cooked potato was then assessed against a very wide range of taste and texture characters by highly trained testers.

The testers could readily differentiate between the three potato varieties and also the age of the tubers at the time of the experiment, conducted in January or May, was a significant determinant of taste and texture within each trial year. The seasonal differences were noted over the two years of the trial, with taste and texture attributes of each variety changing slightly from year to year. These variables accounted for essentially all the variation in the experiment.

Carbon dioxide and ethylene were relatively unimportant. Overall changes in taste and texture attributable to ethylene and/or carbon dioxide were small and generally inconsistent. Any effects were more evident in the earliest storage duration phase of each year of the trial. Over both years Marfona was the variety most affected by ethylene, being waxier and slightly harder on first cut, slightly sweeter in taste and aftertaste and with a less metallic flavour. There was no finding of an unpleasant attribute associated with either gas.

The unsatisfactory storage effects found in the 2000’s were not replicated in this trial and their occurrence must be attributed to other factors or effects. For example it is possible that there are interactions between ethylene and/or carbon dioxide and taste and texture under particular conditions of potato production and storage that have not been experienced in the two years of the trial.

To read the full report click here.

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