Wine & Food

Snooth User: Nancy Hawks Miller

TCA in Food

Posted by Nancy Hawks Miller, Feb 12, 2011.

Hi! I'm new here, but this looks like a real find! NapaGirl68's post about bad wine/food pairings made me want to ask y'all if you've ever noticed "corked" food (her carrots made her Pinot taste corked)? I wondered if her carrots were "corked" because I've noticed TCA character in produce for a long time. I thought I must be nuts until I met with the lab staff at a winery where I was working. We were talking about tainted tasting samples and when I asked about TCA in food they said "Absolutely, it's possible." They assume that the TCA was picked up from wooden boxes used for harvest or shipping. I notice it most often in bananas, but maybe it's because I love bananas ;-) Yesterday I had some "corked" blueberries - yuck! 

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 12, 2011.

Had some 'corked' bok choy yesterday, likely for the reason(s) you theorize.

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Reply by gregt, Feb 12, 2011.

Another reason I'm so in favor of screw caps.

As far as your veggies - ever hear of cans?  Come on people.  Cans.  Vegetables come in cans.  No cork problems there.

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Reply by outthere, Feb 12, 2011.

And babies are delivered by storks... Canned wine?

 

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Reply by Nancy Hawks Miller, Feb 12, 2011.

Ooh - dank leafy greens - ouch!

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 12, 2011.

No, outthere, canned FOOD.  You know, the stuff that goes with wine, sometimes.  Yep, GregT lives in NYC where the only fresh "produce" at this time of year is the wilted stuff at the green grocer's salad bar or $18 a pound baby arugula at Dean and Deluca. I'm just wondering why he thinks you could put bok choy under a screw cap. (Okay, arugula, not exotic anymore.  I date myself.)

But most produce ships in cardboard these days, with wax all over the cardboard and, often, the produce.  TCA is now thought to be a product of the chemicals that are used to sterilize the corks. 

http://www.winepros.org/wine101/vincyc-tca.htm

That's a quick reference on the issue in wine, but it suggests that it's the fungicides and chlorine reacting with the cork, which we have discussed in a thread on screw caps.  Since all vegetable matter has some common structures (xylem, phloem, lignins which are part of secondary cell walls and more prevalent in woody things), I think wooden boxes are beside the point.  I suspect it's just the use of the chemicals to ship the produce interacting with the goods.  So much of our produce ships from far away these days.

In bananas, you could be detecting ethylene.   Now, if they could just put bananas under a Stelvin...

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 12, 2011.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 12, 2011.

Canned wine, outthere.  Just for you.

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Reply by outthere, Feb 12, 2011.

Blech!

I was just making fun of Greg. Being from Sonoma County I never starve for fresh veggies and never, NEVER, NEVER used canned vegetables. Beans is another story. Nothing like black beans on demand.

As for wax, the stores spray wax on the veggies to make them shine. Makes me puke. The shine doesn't make it taste better. Thank goodness we have Andy's Produce here just up the road. Only the freshest, never waxed.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 12, 2011.

outthere--I'm familiar with Andy's.  Check your messages!

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 12, 2011.

And I read an article that some canned wine won awards, but we all know how I feel about those state/county fair wine competitions.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 12, 2011.

I'm okay with Muir Glen diced tomatoes to make a quick sauce--I'm not that pure.

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Reply by napagirl68, Feb 12, 2011.

Hi  there,

I have kinda tasted that from time to time in food.  You mentioned blueberries which picqued my interest.   I have had blueberries that had a "moldy" finish, which is a similar taste to TCA.  But then I have had other blueberries that exhibit an almost eucalyptus/pine  sea flavor that were amazing.  I am wondering if this "pine/menthol" flavor just went to far in the blueberries I tasted.   Good posting... interesting.  And you are right.. especially with the root veg, there can be a moldy component.

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Reply by Ursmarva, Feb 13, 2011.

i get TCA all the time in small bagged carrots.  The curse of a sommelier.....

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Reply by Andrew46, Feb 13, 2011.

I don't doubt that food seems to have a corked like aroma from time to time.  I do wonder if there is any confirmed evidence of actual TCA in the foods.   Anyone have any study to support this idea?  I am not saying it can't be true.  Just that I am curious if there are any confirmed cases (actual TCA found) and under what conditions they came to be.

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Reply by Ursmarva, Feb 13, 2011.

Actually I have been part of 186 wine dinners from $39-$1000 a person, 3 courses-11course dinner and have never had the food TCA ever affect the meal/pairing.... always just the wine.... pre tasting and pouring/NEVER affecting the guest experience

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 13, 2011.

Wow, this thread took off, even on a weekend!

I tend to run across the phenomenon more in veggies than fruits, even though I also detest that wax Outthere refers to. Used to help apply it to lemons that were going into storage until shipped to Europe or Asia, even way back in summers when I was a college student--so I understand why it's used, but prefer to eat fruits that haven't had it applied.

I first started wondering about a taste of 'spoilage' even though the veggies weren't visibly spoiled and should've been fresh. Confirmed through others' similar reactions that I wasn't just having olfactory hallucinations. During that process I realized that some of the off smells were like TCA.

Narrowed down the large portion of what I've encountered of that nature to shipments from China of cheap produce. Everything from bok choy and mung beansprouts to negi (somewhere between scallions and leeks) and gingko nuts. Sometimes I even get a waft from peanuts in their shells. Bit the bullet and started going up market and paying more. And buying from local stands next to farmers' fields when I was living in Western Tokyo. No such problem with them.

China's known for their exuberance in use of any sort of fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides. I once walked by some fields in NE China where drainage ditches next to the fields were clogged with vast numbers of empty coated paper and plastic wrappers for insecticides and fungicides. No fertilizer bags that day. Just scores and scores of the wrappers over a very short distance. Made me stop in my tracks.

Off smells from mushrooms are a whole nuther subject that I find interesting but won't start on here....

 

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Reply by napagirl68, Feb 13, 2011.

Dmcker- yep.  that's the main reason I cannot eat pine nuts anymore. Almost all I can find are from China, and even if they taste great while I am eating them, I end up with a bitter taste a day or two later that lasts for weeks.... never had this problem before, and I think it has to do with the variety or pesticides from china.  It is a phenomenon that is experienced by others too... Don't know if they've ever found a direct cause, but I avoid all pinenuts now, and anything else that I know is from China.  Being in California, there really is no need to consume any food from china.

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Reply by gregt, Feb 13, 2011.

I do hope you all realized I was joking? 

As far as the pine nuts - interesting.  But would that ban on all things Chinese apply to soy products as well, and if so, what about nearby countries?  I'm running out of soy sauce and was just going to buy another bottle.  Can't say that I've ever experienced the flavors you mention, but I suppose it's possible.

As far as the veggies and wood cartons - how far into the vegetable does that flavor penetrate?  I'm thinking it's not necessarily TCA but simply a bit of mildew that comes from damp produce, wood, etc.  Seems like it would wash off no?

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 13, 2011.

Sorry, Greg, you're outed. We now know you're a canned peas and greenbeans and spinach boy. All credibility regarding your wine judgments is now questionable.... ;-)

Not wood, for me, anyway, since the produce is shipped in cardboard boxes, often with coated paper linings. And not an issue with Japanese produce or finished food products, though there is an issue with cost. I just think I'm buying the equivalent of the Japanese LP pressings I paid extra for decades ago, though in veggie form... ;-(

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 13, 2011.

I think dmcker had it right when he talked about stuff being shipped.  My guess is they blast the produce with stuff to prevent or slow the mold during shipment, do it right before it's loaded, and use an extra measure because they would rather it arrives looking good than worry about TCA sensitive individuals.  And we buy produce on looks, and can't know the next time if it was the same producer in China, so we buy it again without knowing even if the last batch tasted funky.  He has less loss than someone using less fungicide-omnicide, so he sells for less, the retailer makes more.  It's Gresham's law. One example is that pine nuts are much cheaper now than when I was a kid, in real dollars, as is most food.  But that means that China or someone is producing it far away on cheap land with cheap labor.

NG, don't kid yourself:  Even in California, much of the garlic is from China.  Land and labor are cheap, with standards for worker safety and treatment even lower than they are here in ag industries. Gilroy is hurting, especially after they turned a lot of it into subdivisions and things went bad in the mortgage markets.We can get local produce in California, but we still have to be on the lookout.  GregT can buy Kikkoman Soy Sauce, made in WI, but the US rules on GMO products meant that your soy is GMO unless it says organic, and even that is now under debate.  (90% of soybeans and 83% of corn in US were GMO, according to last report I read.)

I'm 100% convinced it's not wooden crates, but the chemicals used in shipping/growing/processing. 

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