story to find out more.
An experimental line of beautiful, tasty peppers.
The purplish-blue fruits are immature; the red, mature. Click the image for
more information about it.
Twice as Nice: Versatile Vegetables Pack a Double
September 5, 2006
Since 1991, Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) scientists
Griesbach have bred peppers to please both the eye and the palate. The
effort has produced culinary ornamental peppers that are attractive, tasty and
nutritious, the most recent of which is the award-winning Black Pearl.
What health benefits do culinary ornamental peppers have? And what can they
teach us about other plants? Griesbach and Stommel are exploring the
biochemistry of the anthocyanin pigments responsible for the Black Pearl
peppers deep-black color.
Griesbach is with the ARS
and Nursery Plants Research Unit, and Stommel is with the agency's
Laboratory. Both labs are part of the ARS
A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center.
Anthocyanins provide pigmentation, protect plants against damaging
ultraviolet sunlight and function as antioxidants when consumed.
Characterization of anthocyanins by Griesbach and Stommel is facilitating
cooperative efforts with human nutritionists to track anthocyanins after
By better understanding the metabolic fate of the compounds, the scientists
are finding ways to optimize the anthocyaninand nutritionalcontent
of peppers and other vegetable crops.
Traditional breeding combines attributes from different parents and assesses
the offspring for desirable characteristics. Stommel and Griesbach target
specific breeding objectives using fundamental genetics, biochemistry and
molecular biology. Those approaches provide insight that helps guide their
According to the scientists, this method reduces the influence of chance
events and improves efficiency. For example, using this method, Griesbach was
able to create a sky-blue orchid in only three generationsan achievement
that had eluded classical breeders for more than 25 years.
These peppers arent the only plants with both aesthetic and culinary
appeal to come out of the Vegetable Laboratory. Earlier research produced
tomatoes rich in lycopene and beta-carotene, which are antioxidants that
increase tomatoes nutritional value while improving their color.
more about these edible ornamentals in the September 2006 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.