Unravelling the seasonal dynamics of the metabolome of white asparagus spears using untargeted metabolomics

Eirini Pegiou, Jasper Engel, Roland Mumm, Robert D. Hall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: The white asparagus season lasts 4 months while the harvest period per field is 8 weeks. Different varieties are better suited for harvesting early or late in the season. Little is known of the dynamics of secondary metabolites of white asparagus during the production season. Objective: Characterization of the metabolome of white asparagus spears covering volatile and non-volatile composition in relation to quality aspects. Methods: Eight varieties, harvested repeatedly during two consecutive seasons were analysed following an untargeted metabolomics workflow using SPME GC–MS and LC–MS. Linear regression, cluster and network analyses were used to explore the profile dynamics, unravel patterns and study the influence of genotype and environment. Results: The metabolite profiles were influenced by the harvest moment and genetic background. Metabolites that significantly changed over time were distributed across seven clusters based on their temporal patterns. Two clusters including monoterpenes, benzenoids and saponins showed the most prominent seasonal changes. The changes depicted by the other five clusters were mainly ≤ 2-fold relative to the harvest start. Known asparagus aroma compounds were found to be relatively stable across the season/varieties. Heat-enhanced cultivation appeared to yield spears early in season with a similar metabolome to those harvested later. Conclusion: The dynamics of the white asparagus metabolome is influenced by a complex relationship between the onset of spear development, the moment of harvest and the genetic background. The typical perceived asparagus flavour profile is unlikely to be significantly affected by these dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023


  • Asparagus officinalis
  • Linear modelling
  • Network analysis
  • Seasonal dynamics
  • Untargeted metabolomics
  • White asparagus


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