[NAFEX] Fwd: New Focus on an Old Fruit

Lon J. Rombough lonrom at hevanet.com
Tue Jul 11 10:20:07 EDT 2006




Begin forwarded message:

From: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>
Date: July 11, 2006 6:34:07 AM PDT
To: ARS News subscriber <lonrom at hevanet.com>
Subject: New Focus on an Old Fruit
Reply-To: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>

STORY LEAD:
A Bright Future for an Ancient Fruit
___________________________________________

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Erin Peabody, (301) 504-1624, ekpeabody at ars.usda.gov
July 11, 2006
--View this report online, plus any included photos or other images, at 
www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr
___________________________________________

Maybe it’s their dried-out skins, wrinkled from months spent in the 
sun. Or their lackluster brown hues, lost among the bright reds, 
yellows and oranges of the produce aisle. Whatever it is, dates aren’t 
exactly flying off U.S. grocery store shelves.

But Robert Krueger, a scientist with the Agricultural Research Service 
(ARS) in Riverside, Calif., thinks we should take a cue from Middle 
Eastern cuisine and open our eyes, and stomachs, to these dazzling 
little gems.

With the help of University of California (UC) colleagues, the ARS 
horticulturalist recently uncovered new information about the date 
palm, including findings on the tree’s origins, its current state of 
diversity and how its impressive levels of antioxidants vary by 
cultivar.

Researchers have known for a while that dates are top-scorers in terms 
of their phenolic compound content. Also found in red wine, phenolic 
compounds are powerful antioxidants, capable of shielding our bodies’ 
delicate cellular machinery from the everyday assault of harmful free 
radicals.

Krueger, who works at the ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository for 
Citrus and Dates, and UC-Davis colleagues ran antioxidant tests on six 
dates commonly grown in California. It turns out that the Deglet Noor 
date--the kind most likely to be eaten by Americans--was their best 
performer.

Krueger, with Egyptian researcher Ashraf El-Assar and UC-Riverside 
researchers led by Thomas Chao, recently completed an extensive 
evaluation of the genetic diversity of date palms in Egypt. Egypt is 
the world’s largest supplier of dates, having grown them since about 
3200 B.C.

The scientists found that while there’s much diversity among Egyptian 
date palms, the country’s date industry may want to round out its 
cultivated date groves with other, genetically different cultivars. 
Plant diversification guards against potential disease threats and 
habitat loss.

This research has important implications for the future of the date 
industry--and date palm diversity--which is centered in the Middle 
East.

Read more about the research in the July 2006 issue of Agricultural 
Research magazine, available online at:
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul06/dates0706.htm

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research 
agency.
___________________________________________

* This is one of the news reports that ARS Information distributes to 
subscribers on weekdays.
* Start, stop or change an e-mail subscription at 
www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/subscribe.htm
* NewsService at ars.usda.gov | www.ars.usda.gov/news
* Phone (301) 504-1638 | fax (301) 504-1486


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