“Before, they were breeding for higher yields, stronger plants, produce easier to ship and more ornamental in appearance,” said Grace Romero, lead horticulturist with W. Atlee Burpee & Co., America’s largest home gardener seed company. “Now they’re looking at improvements in flavor and smell in addition to more nutrients. Enriching the colors is attached to nutritive value.”
Many naturally occurring plant pigments also are the stuff of disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants: concentrations of carotenoids, for example, which give fruits and vegetables distinctive yellow, orange and reddish hues. Or anthocyanins, which give strawberries and beets their trademark tones.
We’re not talking just fresh fruits and vegetables. Nutrient levels also are high in produce that has been canned, frozen, dried or processed into juice.
Burpee is working in particular on elevating their tomato, broccoli and pepper products, Romero said.
“Research papers show orange tomatoes have more vitamins than red tomatoes,” she said. “Something purple would have more anthocyanins than something that’s white. Purple broccoli, for instance.”
—Dean Fosdick, Houston Chronicle, 10/2/08