Colorful Potatoes Offer Nutrition, Variety
potatoes with orange,
red, or purple flesh
could hit supermarkets
in a few years. These
potatoes are not just
more colorful, they
are more nutritious
because they are high
|Orange mashed potatoes? Purple french
fries? Potato dishes of the future could be healthier, tastier, and more
colorful if breeders incorporate diverse Andean potatoes.
"All potatoes originated in South America, but there are many variations
that we don't typically see here in the United States," says
ARS geneticist Charles R. Brown.
"Potatoes with orange, red, or purple flesh may provide health benefits
and new flavors," he says. Brown works at the ARS Vegetable and Forage
Crops Production Research Unit in Prosser, Washington.
All potatoes are a good source of complex carbohydrates, potassium, vitamin C,
folic acid, and iron. Brown has made dozens of breeding crosses to examine
additional health benefits in colored varieties.
"The pigments that produce the colors may also function as antioxidants in
the human diet," Brown says. Antioxidants are believed to aid in
preventing certain cancers and types of blindness, as well as improving
These red and purple potatoes,
shown here on a bed of spinach
and kale, contain pigments that
are high in antioxidants.
Brown has developed orange-fleshed potatoes with up to four times the
antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein as white potatoes. In a blindfolded taste
test of boiled, diced potatoes, consumers preferred the flavor of the orange
potatoes to that of the white ones.
Consumers may already know of some red- or purple-fleshed potatoes,
occasionally sold through organic cooperatives. But Brown has developed
potatoes with these darker colors that have more than four times the
antioxidant potential than current commercial varieties.
The potatoes also score well against other foods in a standard measure for
antioxidant capacity, a laboratory test called ORAC, or oxygen radical
absorbance capacity. (See
Foods Forestall Aging?" Agricultural Research, February 1999,
pp. 1417.) Brown's red- and purple-fleshed potatoes achieved ORAC scores
comparable to brussels-sprouts, kale, or spinach.
Brown says that before the colored potatoes become available commercially,
important agronomic traits need to be verified or incorporated, such as
appealing skin appearance, reasonable yield and disease resistance, and low
concentrations of bitterness compounds. Some of his experimental breeding lines
may be ready for commercial testing once enough seed is available.
"There is tremendous interest from growers," Brown says. "These
colored varieties are seen as a radically new type of potato for a previously
untapped market," he notes. "Americans love their potatoes. Giving
them additional reasons to include potatoes in their diet is a plan that's
likely to succeed."By
Stelljes, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Plant, Microbial, and Insect Genetic Resources,
Genomics, and Genetic Improvement, an ARS National Program (#301) described on
the World Wide Web at http://www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
Charles R. Brown is at the
USDA-ARS Vegetable and Forage Crops
Production Research Unit, 24106 N. Bunn Rd., Prosser, WA 99350-9687; phone
(509) 786-9252, fax (509) 786-9277.
"Colorful Potatoes Offer Nutrition,
Variety" was published in the
issue of Agricultural Research magazine.