In this pilot study, we investigated the relationship between levels of bitter sesquiterpene lactones and sensory evaluation of chicory (Cichorium intybus L.). The levels of two bitter sesquiterpene lactones—lactucopicrin and lactucin-like sesquiterpene lactones—were measured by ELISA in raw and cooked chicory samples from several cultivars. Data were compared with the results of a sensory evaluation on the flavor attributes bitterness, typical chicory flavor, and total flavor intensity of identical chicory samples. Linear regression analysis demonstrated that the levels of lactucin-like sesquiterpene lactones were significantly related to bitterness (P = 0.006) and total flavor intensity (P = 0.03) attributes in raw chicory samples. When cooked chicory samples were evaluated, the levels of lactucin-like sesquiterpene lactones were significantly related to bitterness (P = 0.002), typical chicory flavor (P < 0.001), and total flavor intensity (P = 0.009) attributes, while lactucopicrin levels were related to bitterness (P = 0.002) only. These results show that the ELISA can be useful to predict flavor attributes in chicory.
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