Airdate: Jan 21, 2009
Scientist: Joan Harvey
KSC Flavor - Recreating the Banana
How do you mimic the flavor of a fresh banana?
â€œIâ€™m gonna try to make the perfect yellow banana.â€
Banana trees grow in warm climates and yield mature fruit months after blossoming. But in northern New Jersey Joan Harvey can whip up a fresh banana flavor in under 10 minutes. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Joan is a flavorist with a major candy company, and she draws from a library of flavor compounds when formulating new creations. You may know these as â€œnatural and artificial flavorsâ€ listed on ingredients labels.
â€œIâ€™m looking for hexenyl acetate, and itâ€™s found in apples, itâ€™s found in pears, itâ€™s found in bananas, itâ€™s found in grass. In the U.S. we use them as artificial ingredients, where in Europe anything thatâ€™s found in nature can be called nature identical.â€
Hexenyl acetate is one of a handful of ingredients that Joan uses to mimic the perfect yellow banana flavor. She quickly pulls chemicals off the shelves and quickly reacquaints herself with their aromas in preparation for a new candy formula. Like music, flavor consists of notes, individual qualities that stand out.
â€œThis compound, itâ€™s a little heavier banana note. It reminds me of as itâ€™s going brown. This compound, isoamyl alcohol, has a more green banana note. And vanillin. It smells creamy and sweet. Iâ€™m going to use this to balance all the other compounds together. And these last two are ethyl esters that will give me the lift of the banana flavor.â€
Joan Harvey is a participant in the Kidsâ€™ Science Challenge, and if you know of a 3rd to 6th grader with an interest in flavor, have them check out kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.