When food scientists set out to make an artificial flavoring compound, they seek out the main compound in fruit or other food that seems to be the most responsible for its quintessential flavour. There is one compound that stands out in this regard for bananas: isoamyl acetate.
Isoamyl acetate, alone, seems to be the one compound that smacks of being ‘banana.’ It’s so banana-like that food chemists simply call it banana ester. In fact, you might say it smells like over-ripe bananas.
This is science, nothing to the extreme, however, there is one more ‘idea’ of why this might be happening.
Banana Flavour Was Based on an Extinct Variety of Banana
A long-standing theory about why artificial banana flavour tastes so much different from actual bananas is because the artificial flavor was modeled on a now near-extinct variant of banana, the Gros Michel.
The Gros Michel was the most popular banana variant consumed in the United States until the mid-1950s when a fungus devastated worldwide banana crops. The Gros Michel was commercially replaced in the 1960s with the Cavendish banana, a more resilient banana variant that is what we know and what we have been consuming.
This idea was created to explain the disparity between banana flavoring and real bananas. According to this myth, artificial banana flavor, or banana oil, was based on a particularly pungent and strong-tasting banana.
While there is no evidence that banana flavouring was based on the Gros Michel, this variety does seem to have a stronger, more ‘fake’ taste. This is because it has fewer volatile compounds than the Cavendish most of us are familiar with, but more isoamyl acetate.
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