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'Corked' garlic or other fruit/vegetables/objects?


I bought some garlic recently that whilst in date and seemingly ‘fresh,’ smelt powerfully mouldy/musty. It reminded me of TCA, the chemical responsible for the cork taint in wine. There was no visible sign of mould or spoilage but I couldn’t bear to use it.

A few days later I was browsing in Tiger where I picked up a glass jar with a cork lid. I could smell the cork taint from a few feet away, it was absolutely awful, and persisted on my hands afterwards. Presumably this would have a significant impact on anything stored in the jar?

It seems obvious that this same taint would be present elsewhere (and especially in other cork products) and not unique to wine and bottle corks, but for some reason this had never occurred to me until I’d encountered it.

Has anyone come across this, in fruit/veg or anything else?


Yes. Seems to be very common with apples and quite a few other fruits and vegetables. I’m fairly sensitive to it and often get a whiff of it in supermarket fruit/veg aisles.


Fruit and veg can be tainted from its cardboad or wooden packaging.

I have a corked banana in the house as I write. Smells of TCA, and ones from the same bunch were lacking in flavour.

I’ve also had corked beer and water, the latter probably from lemon slices. And we had a nearby garden that reeked of TCA as you walked last.


It is odd when the distinctive smell pops up out of context. I’ve experienced the smell on water and some veg. The article I link to I found quite interesting - suggesting that infected baby carrots (for example) are making people more tolerant of TCA:

“Those plastic bags of baby carrots — they spin them down, shape them, then bleach them, before putting them in plastic,” Bisson says, “which puts them at a high risk for developing TCA.” The same chemical compound that can infect wine corks, in other words, has infected bags upon bags of processed carrots at the grocery store. Her students had grown up eating these carrots and had become inured to the taste and smell of TCA. In fact, they liked it.


Wonder if those brought up on dodgy carrots get the fruit-scalping effect of TCA…?


An interesting article, @wineboar. I think we can probably answer the question “how malleable is our sense of disgust?” from other sources too. We know that stinky cheeses repulse many people who grew up in eastern Asia, but those who come to Europe and persevere with them may grow to like them. Perhaps I might do the same in reverse with things like century eggs, rotting shark and other such locally prized delicacies. And children can be notoriously iffy about some strongly flavoured foods, but almost always grow out of it. Plenty of other examples…

So I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that there can be an acquired tolerance of the odour of THAs (tri-halo anisoles, the principal odorant of “corked” wines).

But THAs are more dangerous than just being an off-scent/flavour. They kill the sense of taste, save for tannins and acid. At low levels - below the threshold of olfactory detection - they can strip all character out of a wine. This is a far trickier one to deal with. The wine just seems emptied of all character, and I often wonder how many snap negative decisions on any given wine may be driven by such low-level taint.

I wonder if acquiring a tolerance to THA odours also means that you are less susceptible to having sub-detectable levels strip other aromatics too?

THAs are one of a whole group of organic compounds that produce a musty smell (although some don’t smell musty at higher concentrations). The other two main important ones are 2-methyl isoborneol and geosmin. I would be careful of ascribing a musty smell to just one of these unless you already know you can distinguish them. And also because they often occur together. They are all caused by fungal or bacterial metabolism. Probably the easiest test is that these other compounds don’t suppress other flavours in the way THAs do.


I was preparing my post while you posted yours, Steve. But that’s sort of what I was wondering too. If they are truly musty due to THAs then I would expect their organoleptic properties to suffer too, unless some of the distinctively “carroty” taste is due to compounds immune from the THA taste depression effect.