Interest in growing elderberry (Sambucus sp.) has surged in the past few years in Europe and North America due to the potential for high economic returns for producers and increased consumer interest in health-promoting food products (Charlebois et al., 2010). Currently, the most common elderberry products purchased by consumers are juice, jelly, and wine (Mohebalian et al., 2012). In a 2009 survey, elderberry products also ranked eighth in sales (over $6.8 million) among botanical dietary supplements in the United States (Cavaliere et al., 2010).
To improve plant productivity and satisfy increased market demand for these products, elderberries from various locations have been selected and evaluated for flowering, date of fruit ripening, yield, and pest resistance (Finn et al., 2008). ‘Bob Gordon’, ‘Ocoee’, ‘Ozark’, and ‘Wyldewood’ are American elderberries [Sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis (L.) Bolli] selected from the wild in Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, respectively, that have been available for commercial production since 2011 (Thomas et al., 2015a). The cultivar York is also an American elderberry that was released by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in 1964 (Greene et al., 1997). More recently, ‘Marge’ was selected from Kansas and is a highly productive European elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. nigra) (Thomas et al., 2015b). When nine elderberry cultivars were grown in research trials conducted at three Missouri sites, ‘Marge’ plants produced the greatest number of cymes and were the highest yielding (Thomas et al., 2015b).
Total anthocyanin content, phenolics, and other compounds extracted from elderberry fruit and juice have been studied due to their potential use in dietary supplements and medicinal products. Kaack et al. (2008) identified neochlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid, cyanidin-3-sambubioside-5-glucoside, cyanidin-3,5-diglucoside, cyanidin-3-sambubioside, cyanidin-3-glucoside, quercetin-3-rutinoside (rutin), and quercetin-3-glucoside (isoquercetin) in juice preparations from selected European elderberry genotypes. Other studies evaluated total phenolics and total monomeric anthocyanin contents to assess variability among American elderberry accessions and cultivars (Lee and Finn, 2007; Nakatani et al., 1995; Özgen et al., 2010; Perkins-Veazie et al., 2015; Thomas et al., 2013; Wu et al., 2015). Although phenolic and anthocyanin contents differed by genotype, production site, and annual climatic conditions, ‘Bob Gordon’ had high levels of these compounds as compared with other cultivars tested in North America (Lee and Finn, 2007; Perkins-Veazie et al., 2015; Thomas et al., 2013; Wu et al., 2015).
In addition to polyphenols, the aromatic composition of elderberry has been characterized. Fifty-nine volatile compounds were identified from processed juice of European elderberries grown in Denmark (Kaack et al., 2005). Compounds associated with elderberry, fruity, floral, and green aromas, as well as other odors were correlated with elderberry flavor intensity. The characteristic elderberry aroma was attributed to nonanal, dihydroedulan, and β-damascenone. Fruity aromas were associated with esters of lower carboxylic acids and alcohols; floral and floral green odors with hotrienol, linalool, and other terpenoids; and green aromas with 1-hexanol, (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol, (E)-2-hexen-1-ol, (E)-2-hexenal, and hexanal (Jensen et al., 2001; Kaack, 2008; Kaack et al., 2005; Poll and Lewis, 1986).
Sensory attributes for juice flavor have received less attention than analysis of their aroma profiles, especially for American elderberry. In the Czech Republic, 17 European elderberry cultivars were evaluated for appearance, juiciness, aroma, flavor, and overall taste (Kaplan et al., 2015). ‘Dana’, ‘Heidegg 13’, ‘Samdal’, and ‘Weihenstephan’ generally had the highest overall taste ratings among the elderberry cultivars tested. However, with the exception of ‘Samdal’, many of the elderberry cultivars grown in Europe are unavailable in North America. In addition, intensities of specific sensory attributes have not been quantified by descriptive analysis for elderberry cultivars commonly grown in North America. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to identify and evaluate aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel attributes of juice from six elderberry cultivars using descriptive sensory analysis and to compare juice color and composition (soluble solids, pH, and titratable acidity).
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