Flavor Bites: Earthy, Musty, Mushroomlike Aroma Chemicals

I like most living things but mosquitoes are an exception. I travel a lot, which makes malaria very near the top of my “things to avoid” list. That goes a long way toward explaining why the discovery that mosquitoes are attracted to the 1-octen-3-ol in cow breath did little to endear this idiosyncratic little flavor chemical to me. Nevertheless, my curiosity overcame caution (who wants a house that smells like cow breath?) and I experimented with adding it to the bug zapper in my yard. The practical effect could not be described as obvious. Possibly it worked, but the device now had the capacity to attract mosquitoes from all the houses in Princeton, New Jersey. It’s also possible it didn’t work at all. Perhaps the mosquitoes in the Princeton area are blissfully unacquainted with cow breath.

1-Octen-3-ol (FEMA #2805, CAS #3391-86-4; F-1) has a very strong earthy aroma that is characteristic of raw mushrooms. There are only a few flavor ingredients that have a similar character. All of them are somewhat less useful in flavors. 1-Octen-3-one (FEMA #3515, CAS #4312-99-6) has a slightly similar profile, but with much more of a cooked character than 1-octen-3-ol’s raw, earthy note. 1-Hepten-3-ol (FEMA #4129, CAS #4938-52-7) also has a raw earthy character, but the mushroom note is a little less pronounced. Octan-3-ol (FEMA #3581, CAS #589-98-0) is somewhat mushroomlike but is also distinctly musty. Octa-1,5-dien-3-ol (FEMA #4732, CAS #83861-74-9) has an interesting earthy, raw mushroom note as well, but it is combined with an herbal character that reduces the compound’s usefulness.

Away from the obvious area of aliphatic chemicals, 2-phenyl acetaldehyde dimethyl acetal (FEMA #2876, CAS #101-48-4) has a pungent raw mushroom profile but the associated floral character makes it uniquely well-suited to kewra instead of mushroom flavors. 1-Furfuryl pyrrole (FEMA #3284, CAS #1438- 94-4) is somewhat characteristic of raw mushrooms but, in this case, the character is augmented by a cooked, brown note.

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