How sweet to be a maroon carrot
A vegetable that is good for you in more ways than one
Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
"BetaSweet" carrots have more beta-carotene, texture and crunch than a regular carrot. So what's the difference between a regular carrot and a BetaSweet? BetaSweet carrots have a Texas A&M maroon tint, as opposed to the traditional orange color.
The purplish color comes from the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is found in blueberries and could be effective in preventing cancer cells.
Bhimanagouda Patil, director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center and a professor of horticultural sciences at Texas A&M, said a breast cancer cell culture study involving anthocyanin indicated a decrease in breast cancer cells.
"I want to emphasize that the results are from cell culture studies," Patil said. "It needs further research to claim any benefits."
The carrots were developed 10 years ago by Endowed Professor Emeritus Leonard M. Pike, who was a professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences and director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center.
"Pike was the breeder," Patil said. "He did it for fun, as a carrot naturally exhibiting A&M's school color, and it turned out to be a healthier carrot with better taste."
The maroon carrots are based off wild carrots Pike collected from Brazil. He returned to A&M and wanted to make a more maroon carrot, so he cultivated the samples and the "BetaSweet" maroon carrot was born.
Patil said he did not work with Pike during the development of the carrots, but established the cell culture core unit. This core unit has focused on screening vegetables and fruits that could potentially be used for cancer prevention. Three additional core units deal with the different aspects of storing the carrots and how it can affect cancer cells.
There is a collaborative study between Texas A&M and the University of Arizona that involves maroon carrot juice and breast cancer survivors, but information on the results is not yet available.
The carrots are being grown and sold by J&D Produce Inc. and should be available at H.E.B. and Kroger grocery stores in Texas. It has taken a while for consumers to show interest in the carrots, but Patil said J&D Produce is doing a good job of marketing them.
Carrots are not the only vegetable to go maroon. Researchers in Oregon and Europe have created maroon tomatoes that contain similar anthocyanin, but in a different form.
"There are different kinds of anthocyanin," Patil said. "Our obligation as a scientist is to explore and understand which type of bioactive compounds provide potential health promoting benefits so consumers can be confident that consuming more fruits and vegetables are beneficial to them and their families."
Patil said the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center is also doing research on grapefruit because they contain limonoids, flavonoids and carotenoids that may reduce the risks of some types of cancers, such as colon cancers.
Several scientists in the Center are conducting research on onions, melons, peppers and other citrus as well.
The Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center is part of the AgriLife Research and Extension services of Texas A&M University and educates children from grades K-12 about fruits and vegetables.
The VICkids program provides hands-on information, which can improve the health of the children.
"We show them the labs and what the benefits of fruits and vegetables are," Patil said. "And the kids are taking the parents to the grocery stores to buy fruits and vegetables."
The center has had more than 4,000 participants in the program.
Benefits of the BetaSweet carrot It's maroon! Was developed by an A&M professor just for fun Healthier for you Could prevent cancerous cells Tastes better and sweeter than the traditional carrot