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Thanks to research, carrots, onions, garlic and cucumbers taste better and contain more nutrients. And better crop yields and disease resistance make more of these favorite foods available.

Remember the old joke about carrots' vitamin A being good for your eyes? (You never saw a rabbit wearing glasses, did you?) Well, ARS research has brought us a carrot that's healthier than ever. Today's carrots pack twice the beta carotene as their predecessors did 30 years ago, and researchers expect to triple this important source of vitamin A by the year 2000.

Thanks to our pioneering work in lightly processing foods, the freshly peeled carrots sold in the produce section are free of the white film that sometimes masks their bright orange color. Processors simply dip the peeled, ready-to-eat vegetables in a heated bath of water and citric acid for 30 seconds and then quickly dunk them into cold water. The technique is simple, fast, inexpensive, and additive-free. It won't affect taste either. The heated citric acid, which is a natural product of citrus fruit, simply stops unwanted enzymes from forming.

We've altered onions too. Sweet Sandwich is now marketed as a sweet onion that offers an alternative to Vidalia onions. It can be stored 9 months without using any chemicals to inhibit sprouting.

And added to our plant-breeding work with cucumbers, we've worked with picklemakers to prevent a common problem known as "pillowing" that discolors finished pickles.

Photo by Scott Bauer.

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