Taste drives consumption of foods. The tropical tree Moringa oleifera is grown worldwide as a protein-rich leafy vegetable and for the medicinal value of its phytochemicals, in particular its glucosinolates, which can lead to a pronounced harsh taste. All studies to date have examined only cultivated, domestic variants, meaning that potentially useful variation in wild type plants has been overlooked. We examine whether domesticated and wild type M. oleifera differ in myrosinase or glucosinolate levels, and whether these different levels impact taste in ways that could affect consumption. We assessed taste and measured levels of protein, glucosinolate, myrosinase content, and direct antioxidant activity of the leaves of 36 M. oleifera accessions grown in a common garden. Taste tests readily highlighted differences between wild type and domesticated M. oleifera. There were differences in direct antioxidant potential, but not in myrosinase activity or protein quantity. However, these two populations were readily separated based solely upon their proportions of the two predominant glucosinolates (glucomoringin and glucosoonjnain). This study demonstrates substantial variation in glucosinolate composition within M. oleifera. The domestication of M. oleifera appears to have involved increases in levels of glucomoringin and substantial reduction of glucosoonjnain, with marked changes in taste.
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