A total of twelve strains of lactococci were isolated from grass and vegetables (baby corn and fresh green peas). Ten of the isolates were classified as Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis and two as Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris based on 16S rDNA sequencing. Most of the plant-derived strains were capable of metabolising a wide range of carbohydrates in that they fermented D-mannitol, amygdalin, potassium gluconate, L-arabinose, D-xylose, sucrose and gentibiose. None of the daily control strains (i.e. L lactis subsp. cremoris HP, L lactis subsp. lactis IL1403 and Lactococcus lactis 303) were able to utilize any of these carbohydrates. The technological potential of the isolates as flavour-producing lactococci was evaluated by analysing their growth in milk and their ability to produce volatile compounds using solid phase micro-extraction of the headspace coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (SPME GC-MS). Principal component analysis (PCA) of the volatile compounds clearly separated the dairy strains from the plant derived strains, with higher levels of most flavour rich compounds. The flavour compounds produced by the plant isolates among others included; fatty acids such as 2- and 3-methylbutanoic acids, and hexanoic acid, several esters (e.g. butyl acetate and ethyl butanoate) and ketones (e.g. acetoin, diacetyl and 2-heptanone), all of which have been associated with desirable and more mature flavours in cheese. As such the production of a larger number of volatile compounds is a distinguishing feature of plant-derived lactococci and might be a desirable trait for the production of dairy products with enhanced flavour and/or aroma. (C) 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.