Beetroot is an important source of the natural red food color betalanin (E162), which has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticarcinogenic properties. Due to these and other useful qualities, the dye is used, among other things, in the production of functional foods.
As the scientists of VIR them. Vavilova, for more efficient extraction of red pigment, the choice of harvesting dates should be oriented to abiotic environmental factors, and not to the size of the root crop, reports official website of the center.
The study showed that over time, the cumulative effect of pigments does not occur. Therefore, it is not worth waiting for a large root crop to grow, where the pulp will occupy most of it. In addition, according to the data, much more pigments accumulate in the skin, and not in the pulp.
The scientists also identified morphological features of the leaf surface and the form of the root crop, which have a strong correlation with an increased content of pigment. Thus, when choosing a variety for dye extraction, preference should be given to mid-ripening varieties with rounded and medium-sized roots, a large number of narrow leaf blades, and short and thin petioles.
To determine the optimal harvesting time, VIR scientists studied the dynamics of changes in the content of red (betacyanins) and yellow (betaxanthins) pigments in table beet samples from the VIR collection in conjunction with changes in environmental temperature. The tests took place during the growing season of 2021 on the fields of VIR.
“Studies have shown that beet peel was more sensitive to temperature changes. In turn, the pigment composition of the pulp reacted negatively to precipitation. In both cases, the amount of pigments sharply decreased on the second or third day. Which can make it pointless to harvest three days after rain or during hot weather,” says Diana Sokolova, senior researcher, curator of beetroot, spinach and amaranth collections at VIR.
The methods applied will allow for faster creation of genetic diversity, which can eventually be introduced into the crop rotation of production fields. The end result of this direction will be pre-selection material of table beets with a higher content of red pigment in root crops.
As Nina Demenok, director of the largest Russian manufacturer of natural dyes in Russia, JSC ECO RESOURCE, Nina Demenok, explained, varieties with a high content of dyes are really the most appropriate in production: “After all, the higher the concentration of coloring pigment in vegetables, the greater the color saturation we have in our dye and therefore the manufacturer will need smaller dosages to get the desired result in the final product.” At the moment, the raw materials for the production of dyes of the company ECO RESOURCE JSC are, among other things, black carrots and red corn. These cultures are purchased from abroad and large volumes are required to isolate the dyes from them.
In this regard, according to Nina Demenok, the ability to grow domestic beet varieties with a high pigment content and a selected harvesting period in Russia and specifically in the North-West can significantly reduce transport costs and become an alternative source of natural food dyes for crops that are not grown in Russia. .