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Increasing the Availability, Safety and Acceptance of Diverse Leafy Green Vegetables

Oltjen, James
Colorado State University
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This proposal focuses on expanding the production and promoting the consumption of underutilized leafy greens in Colorado. It is a multi-disciplinary approach that includes investigating cultivation, phytochemical, quality, sensory, and culinary characteristics of six selected leafy vegetables including arugula, chard, and kale.

The outreach plan involves promotion of safe handling and preservation methods through the Extension network that enhance quality and reduce the risk of microbial growth. Cooking classes that promote children-friendly leafy greens preparation methods will be aimed at parents of preschoolers. Students will be actively engaged in all stages of this project.

The integration of research, education, and outreach components will help achieve our overall aim of continuing CSU's role as a leader in specialty crop research, leafy greens promotion, and providing practical information for local producers and consumers.

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Non-Technical Summary: Kale, arugula, chard, and other types of leafy vegetables are rich sources of minerals and vitamins, high in bioactive compounds, low in calories and sodium, and well-suited for Colorado's climate but these vegetables are often underutilized. Accepting unfamiliar vegetables and learning how to prepare new foods can be intimidating. This project aims to provide production information for local growers, nutritional information, and preservation workshops for consumers, and culinary workshops for parents of young children. Introducing children to a wide variety of vegetables at an early age can help lay the foundation for healthful dietary habits. Leafy green vegetables can be preserved by various methods such as canning, drying, or freezing but Colorado consumers are often unaware of recommendations and critical adjustments required for preserving at our altitude. The objectives of this project can contribute to the increased production, safe handling, and consumption of a variety of leafy green vegetables.

Approach: Six different cultivars of leafy green vegetable crops will be grown in replicated plots at CSU's Horticulture Field Research Center using production methods commonly used by small acreage farmers. Data will be collected on yield, pests, abiotic stress, and labor inputs to help establish recommended production practices. Samples will be collected and processed for analytical chemical determination of antioxidant capacity using the stable 2,2-diphenyl- 1-picryhydrazyl radical (DPPH) assay, total phenolic content using a modified Folin-Ciocalteu colorimetric method, and carotenoids with high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled to a quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Sensory analysis will involve evaluating flavor, appearance, texture, aroma, and overall acceptability on a 9-point hedonic scale by a group of untrained consumers following approved methods. Raw, cooked, and preserved samples of leafy greens will also be tested for texture differences with a TA-XT2 Texture Analyzer and color using a HunterLab ColorFlex spectrocolorimeter following standard food analysis practices. Participants of a series of 8 culinary and food preservation workshops will be asked to complete pre- and post-workshop questionnaires and workshop evaluation forms.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Chemical Contaminants
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication