Thermal degradation of fractions from sweetpotato roots (`Jewel') was conducted with gas chromatographymass spectrometry to identify precursors of critical flavor volatiles. Upon heating (200 C), sweetpotato root material that was insoluble in methanol and methylene chloride produced similar volatile profiles to those from sweetpotatoes baked conventionally. Volatiles derived via thermal degradation of the nonpolar methylene chloride fraction and the polar methanol fraction did not display chromatographic profiles similar to those from conventionally baked sweetpotatoes. Initial reactions in the formation of critical volatiles appear to occur in the methanol and methylene chloride insoluble components. Maltol (3-hydroxy-2-methyl-4-pyrone) was found to be one of the critical components making up the characteristic aroma of baked sweetpotatoes. Integration of an analytical technique for the measurement of flavor into sweetpotato breeding programs could potentially facilitate the selection of improved and/or unique flavor types.
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