I put this conundrum to all sanet subscribers in the hope that perhaps
this issue has not been discussed before, nor has an explanation been
given for it.
Food Quality-A Mater of Taste!
The Organic Retailers & Growers Association of Australia have a wide
membership from growers, processors, distributors, consumers and over
40 retail outlets marketing organic foods. One of the many comments
received from consumers is that, the food has more flavour, it tastes
like food used to taste, or it tastes like food we once grew ourselves.
As the technical adviser to this association there comes a time when
perhaps anecdotal evidence starts to weigh up in favour of there really
being a scientific reason for these observations.
We know that food flavour can be a matter of sweet, sour, bitter, but we
also know that flavours that are synthesised for the food industry
consist of complex chemical compounds such as benzyl acetate (fruity
raspberry), isoamyl acetate (banana), tomato isobutylthiazole cis
Many factors are involved in imparting flavour to fruit and vegetables
such as variety, hours of sunshine received during the growth period,
absence or maintenance of moisture, grown to maturity(ie. ripened), but
also of course fertilisation and general soil fertility.
The following hypothesis is proposed for organic foods reporting
stronger more intense flavours.
A soil well endowed with organic matter cycling correctly will break
down to humus and hundreds of other complex chemical compounds. We know
that around the rhizosphere of a plant, the most active microbial area,
many times the amount of organic compounds are present than in the
In the knowledge that plants can take up quite complex organic compounds
is there the possibility that in an organic rich soil and one high in
microbial activity this increase in organic compounds around the plant
rhizosphere enables a plant to take up many of these compounds which act
through photosynthesis and enzymatic activity to produce or be
converted into the compounds that we recognise as food flavour.
Working as a soil consultant over many years has enabled me to see a
direct correlation between an increase in soil fertility and an increase
in the quality of plant products(vigour, health, increase in yield).
The reason however for the perceived increase in flavour has been a
long-time niggly question for me.
Is there any merit in this hypothesis that an organic rich soil high in
microbial life and fertility, ie. a soil farmed organically, may result
in produce that has enhanced flavour characteristics or are the comments
of many hundreds of consumers nothing more than perceptions based on a
food choice criteria.
Organic Advisory Service
Organic Retailers & Growers Association of Australia
61 03 95607066