Powerful pumpkins, super squash

Nov 04, 2009
A broad range of carotenoid content represents a spectrum of color in winter and summer squash. Credit: Photo by Rachel Itle

Carotenoids, the family of yellow to red pigments responsible for the striking orange hues of pumpkins and the familiar red color of vine-ripe tomatoes, play an important role in human health by acting as sources of provitamin A or as protective antioxidants. Pumpkins and squash, available in a wide range of white, yellow, and orange colors, are excellent sources of dietary carotenoids, particularly lutein, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene. The colors of these nutritional vegetables are determined by their genetic makeup -- the concentration and type of carotenoids they contain -- which are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

The good news: this wide range of carotenoids in pumpkins and squash provides fertile ground for genetic improvement. When breeders have reliable information about carotenoid types and concentrations, they can work to improve the vegetables' nutritional value and create new varieties of antioxidant-packed offerings for consumers.

But identifying and quantifying carotenoids hasn't been simple; scientists traditionally use a method called "high-performance liquid chromatography", or HPLC. HPLC is highly sensitive and reproducible, but can be expensive and time-consuming. To determine if carotenoid content of and squash could be accurately measured using a less-expensive and simpler method, Rachel A. Itle and Eileen A. Kabelka from the University of Florida's Horticultural Sciences Department designed a research study using colorimetric analysis to correlate color space values with carotenoid content in pumpkins and squash. The study appeared in a recent issue of HortScience.

Pumpkins and squash with white, yellow, and orange flesh color were grown at multiple locations for the study. The flesh of each specimen was evaluated using both HPLC and colorimetric analysis. According to the research, "strong correlations between colorimetric values and carotenoid content were identified."

Interestingly, the researchers found a "nine-fold increase in total carotenoids provided within orange-red and yellow-orange colored cultigens versus yellow colored cultigens."

The research determined that colormetric analysis can aid breeders interested in increasing carotenoid content in pumpkins and squash. The method, Kabelka concluded, "will be successful, easy to implement, and inexpensive".

More information: The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: hortsci.ashspublications.org/c… nt/abstract/44/3/633

Source: American Society for Horticultural Science

Explore further: Polyethylene mulch, glazing create optimal conditions for soil solarization

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Feather color is more than skin deep

Apr 15, 2009

Where do birds get their red feathers from? According to Esther del Val, from the National History Museum in Barcelona, Spain, and her team, the red carotenoids that give the common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) its red coloration ...

Unique tomatoes tops in disease-fighting antioxidants

Feb 27, 2007

Deep red tomatoes get their rich color from lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant. A new study, however, suggests that a special variety of orange-colored tomatoes provide a different form of lycopene, one that our bodies ...

Radical Scavengers in Red Smear Cheeses

Dec 15, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Carotenoids not only give carrots and red smear cheeses, such as Munster, Limburger, and Romadur, their characteristic red color, but they also protect organisms from oxidative stress. A research team headed ...

How carrots help us see the color orange

Jul 22, 2008

One of the easiest ways to identify an object is by its color -- perhaps it is because children's books encourage us to pair certain objects with their respective colors. Why else would so many of us automatically assume ...

Recommended for you

How photosynthesis changed the planet

Nov 20, 2014

Two and a half billion years ago, single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria harnessed sunlight to split water molecules, producing energy to power their cells and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that ...

From dried cod to tissue sample preservation

Nov 19, 2014

Could human tissue samples be dried for storage, instead of being frozen? Researchers are looking at the salt cod industry for a potential tissue sample drying technology that could save money without sacrificing tissue quality.

Riding a food fad to an opportunity

Nov 18, 2014

Until a couple years ago, Shaun Paul's knowledge of chia was limited to the kitschy terracotta Chia Pet figurines. But recently, chia seeds, promoted as a nutritional powerhouse, have earned a growing consumer ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.