Purple variety of sweet potato
Purple sweet potatoes are versatile enough to be used in cupcakes as well as ice cream. However, when cooked in their natural state, they are dry and starchy, prompting most to use the purple sweet potatoes as flour for baked goods, or in some cases, for ice cream. Dr. Gao wants his variety of purple sweet potato to be more palatable. Gao earned the coveted USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture 1890 Institution Capacity Building Grant to support his research. The project will focus on developing a variety that is enjoyable in its natural state and is moist and tastefully sweet. Gao states, “This funding will enable us to conduct field testing of a new purple-sweet potato hybrid for public release, and studies to better understand the anthocyanin synthesis or the formation of purple flesh color.”
CAHS researchers receive provisional patent for potential plant sweetener
Aruna Weerasooriya, Godson Osuji, Laura Carson, Peter Ampim, Subhani Bandara, Eric Obeng, and Sela Woldesenbet
The plant is a perennial herb native to southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, and Venezuela. It is commonly known as the Aztec sweet herb, bushy lippia, honey herb, or hierba dulce, used as a natural sweetener and medicinal herb in its native Mexico and parts of Central America. The Aztecs used it and introduced it to the Spanish when they arrived. A compound called Hernandulcin, whose sweetness is about 1,000 times higher than in sucrose, provides the plant’s sweet taste.The plant has low Hernandulcin production in its tissues. Despite its sweetness, it isn’t used in the natural sweetener industry due to its complexity, difficulty in chemical synthesis, and the presence of another camphor. This aromatic compound gives an unpleasant taste to the natural extract.
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