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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research


item Pollak, Linda

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/28/2008
Publication Date: 6/1/2010
Citation: Pollak, L.M. 2010. Corn Flavor. In: Hui, Y.H., editor. Handbook of Fruit and Vegetable Flavors. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 803-819.

Interpretive Summary: Even though corn is the primary grain produced in the U.S., except for special forms such as sweet corn and popcorn, people do not normally think that they consume much corn. Actually, through meat, eggs, and dairy foods, through processed foods which contain starch and sweeteners made from corn, and through foods and snack foodcorn is a major portion of the American diet. Popcorn is a snack food that can also be a healthy whole-grain food depending on the added ingredients. Sweet corn is a well-liked vegetable that can help people meet the 5 minimum fruit and vegetable servings necessary for a healthy diet. Many of the major compounds that give these corn foods their distinct flavor have been identified, and varieties differ in the amounts of the flavor compounds. Plant breeders can improve the typical corn flavors and aromas that would be beneficial to increased consumption of this important food.

Technical Abstract: Corn is a large part of the modern diet through sweeteners, oil, processed foods, and animal-derived foods. In addition, corn is eaten directly in bread and cereal-type foods, snack foods, and foods made from masa flour. Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of grain processed by wet milling. Although primarily used as animal feed, its use as human food is being investigated. Specialty-type corns eaten directly include popcorn and sweet corn. Depending on its preparation, popcorn can be a healthy whole-grain snack food. Sweet corn contains recessive alleles that alter carbohydrate composition in the kernel endosperm. As opposed to other food corn utilized as grain, sweet corn is eaten immature as a vegetable either fresh or processed by freezing or canning. Sweet corn is one of the most popular vegetables in the U.S., and is becoming increasingly popular in other countries. Although any type of corn can be eaten when kernels are immature, sweet corn cultivars contain recessive alleles that alter the carbohydrate composition of the endosperm and are specifically bred for their use as a vegetable. Quality aspects of sweet corn include sweet flavor, tenderness and aroma. Plant breeders have been successful at developing cultivars with tender pericarp and sweet flavor over a long time period. Improving the typical sweet corn aroma would be beneficial to increased consumption, especially in stored and processed corn. Many compounds affecting flavor have been identified in major classifications of corn used as food. Flavor can be affected by factors such as cultivar, growing conditions, and processing method. Improvement of eating quality including flavor by plant breeding should be successful if fast and easy screening methods exist. Marker-assisted selection may be a useful tool in improving flavor. Corn has a vast reservoir of genetic variability in its germplasm resources that has not been characterized for flavor. These resources could be valuable sources for new and improved flavors.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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