Peppers are one of the most important vegetables and spices in the world and their fruits are used in a range of food dishes, to provide aroma and flavor. Pungency has been largely studied, while studies on the volatile fraction are more recent and less diverse.
A considerable varietal diversity among peppers has been reported in terms of the aroma quality and the qualitative and quantitative variation in the volatile fraction, particularly in fully ripe fruits, which encompass most diverse food applications and aroma profiles.
Thus, a study was designed to study the inheritance of the volatile fractions in peppers and to determine if they can be improved by breeding strategies. The volatile fraction of 175 samples of ripe fruits from a diverse collection of peppers, encompassing a range of varietal types and aroma qualities, were isolated by headspace-solid-phase microextraction and analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.
A diverse profile of volatiles including terpenoids, esters, alkanes, and several aldehydes and alcohols, was found among the evaluated accessions. Findings indicated that, in most cases, hybridization provided higher amounts of total volatiles and a more complex composition, particularly in the pericarp.
In addition, the volatile fraction can be inherited from the parents to the offspring, as most individual volatiles in hybrids, especially major volatiles, were present in at least one of the parents, following intermediate (levels between parents) or transgressive (levels higher than the best parent) inheritance.
De novo compounds (present in the hybrid, absent in the parents) were found in many samples. Comparatively, placental tissues had higher total and individual volatile levels compared with the pericarp in most parent accessions and hybrids, which must be considered by breeders if this part of the fruit is included in food formulations. By combining parent lines with complementary volatile fractions, hybridization offers a feasible method to improve the volatile composition of ripe fruits in peppers.