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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Raleigh, North Carolina » Food Science and Market Quality and Handling Research Unit » Research » Research Project #438485

Research Project: Improved Vegetable Processing Methods to Reduce Environmental Impact, Enhance Product Quality and Reduce Food Waste

Location: Food Science and Market Quality and Handling Research Unit

Project Number: 6070-41000-010-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 6, 2020
End Date: Jul 5, 2025

1. Development of controlled, low-salt vegetable fermentations free of added preservatives using biofunctional lactic acid bacteria starter cultures to improve commercial product quality and reduce spoilage and food waste. 2. Identify beneficial chemical constituents of vegetables that facilitate the development of novel, clean-label, health-promoting fermented and acidified products that retain consumer-preferred appearance, textures, and flavor during processing, storage and distribution. 2a. Determine the effects of processing conditions on flavor characteristics and health-promoting metabolites in pickled vegetables. 2b. Determine the role of specific cell wall components in perceived sensory quality and susceptibility to softening of pickled cucumber and red bell peppers. 3. Determine the physical and chemical characteristics of sweetpotato genotypes to optimize commercial food processing methods and enable commercially viable, novel, value-added products that meet consumer preferences. 3a. Determine the effects of sweetpotato polymer structures and the influence of molecular mobilities on fried sweetpotato textural properties and fat absorption. 3b. Explore perceived sweetpotato sweetness and the impact of precursors in raw sweetpotato on the sugar and volatile compound composition of processed products.

Today’s consumers are interested in fermentation as a healthful food processing technology. Current industrial fermentations generate chloride waste and often use preservatives. To be successful, the ongoing development of low salt, clean-label commercial fermentation technology will require a better understanding of the indigenous microbiota and genetic diversity. Microbiomics approaches and starter cultures will be used to control Gram-negative bacteria, spoilage lactic acid bacteria, and other microbes causing quality defects in laboratory and small scale (bag-in-box) fermentations. Concomitant research on the texture, flavor and nutritional content of fermented and acidified vegetables is needed to assure product quality and consumer acceptability. A trained descriptive sensory analysis panel will create a standardized language (lexicon) to determine product quality attributes of fresh and processed vegetables. Mass spectrometry will be used to analyze the retention and production of health-promoting compounds, and establish connections between chemical composition, fermentation or processing technology, and quality. Food processing research will also include determining the chemical and physical properties of sweetpotato genotypes to identify characteristics that result in improved product quality for in-demand, novel, nutrient-rich processed products. Planned research contributes to the NP306 Action Plan 2020-2024, Component 1: Foods, problem statements 1.A, 1.B, and 1.C. Products from this research include: genotypically and phenotypically defined starter cultures for vegetable fermentations; new knowledge of health promoting small molecules, and flavor compounds of fermented and acidified vegetables along with a standardized sensory language for pickled vegetables; and knowledge of the chemical composition of novel sweetpotato varieties to enable commercial development of processed products.