World-wide, onions are the most important member of the vegetable Alliums. Members of this group are primarily consumed because of their unique flavors and aromas. Allium aroma is dominated by organosulfur compounds arising from the enzymatic decomposition of S-alk(en)yl-L-cysteine S oxide (ACSO) flavor precursors following tissue disruption. Primary products from the decomposition of the four ACSOs are sulfenic acids, including the lachrymator, pyruvate, and ammonia. The sulfenic acids, however, are short-lived and disassociate rapidly into thiosulfinates, which, in turn, are unstable and randomly rearrange or dissociate over time. The thiosulfinates each have unique sensory qualities and are responsible for the flavor notes of fresh cut Alliums, while of the degradation compounds can contribute to off-fl avors and bitterness. ACSO concentration affects ultimate flavor and aroma intensity, while ACSO composition determines among species flavor differences. Controlling sulfur uptake and sulfur metabolism that terminates in ACSO synthesis is one method of controlling ultimate flavor and aroma intensity. Cultivar difference in the ability to absorb and metabolize sulfur have been identified. Sulfur availability, plant growing temperatures, and irrigation intensity also influence sulfur absorption and metabolism, and can be manipulated. Differences in alliinase concentration and the efficiency at which alliinase decompose the ACSO substrates also affect aroma generation. Difficulties, however, exist in controlling alliinase activity. Alliinase has been cloned and anti-sense constructs have been made, but an efficient vectoring system has yet to be developed for the Alliums.
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