Cauliflower Developed at Cornell's Experiment Station is
High in Vitamin A
John Zakour and Linda McCandless
IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 12, 2004
For more information, contact:
Linda McCandless, firstname.lastname@example.org , 607-254-5137
Pictures are linked
to hi-res scans
caption: Rick Pedersen grew orange cauliflower on the Pedersen
Farm in Seneca Castle, NY, last fall. Consumer interest was
good, he said. People like the color and the flavor.
GENEVA, NY: Cornell University crucifer
breeder Michael Dickson has transformed cauliflower from broccoli's
pale cousin into a new orange variety that started appearing in
supermarkets and farmers' markets last fall, and is available in
garden catalogs this spring.
"White cauliflower lacks the dark green pigments that give
broccoli the nutritional advantage that health-conscious people
are interested in," says Dickson, who led the bean and crucifer
breeding programs at the New York State Agricultural Experiment
Station in Geneva, NY, from 1964 to 1995, and is now a professor
emeritus. "This is an alternative. I'm delighted to hear that
it is finally going on the market."
The florets of the new cauliflower look like those of its white
cousin, but are orange. More importantly, the vitamin content of
orange cauliflower is higher because it contains 320 micrograms
of beta-carotene per 100 grams, or approximately 25 times more
vitamin A than white cauliflower.
It has been a 30-year journey from the farm to the fork for the
orange cauliflower, which was first found in the Bradford Marsh
in Canada in 1970. The mutant was smaller and less tasty than a
white cauliflower, but the orange color was alluring. An extension
agent sent it to the University of British Columbia for tissue
culture, and, from there, to the National Vegetable Research Center
in England. Researchers who were familiar with Dickson's work forwarded
it to him in 1981.
Using conventional breeding techniques, Dickson crossbred the
orange cauliflower and selected successive generations until he
had a larger, more market friendly variety. The trick was crossing
the orange cauliflower with the right white cauliflower. "If
we used one that was too white, the end result was too pale," says
It took eight years for Dickson to develop the right germplasm.
While he was working on the horticultural aspects, food chemists
at the Experiment Station were evaluating the nutritional value
of the new vegetable. In 1988, food scientist Cy Lee published
his findings: orange cauliflower had 54 retinol equivalents (RE)
per 100 grams of vitamin A. As a comparison, green peas are at
64 RE, lima beans are 30 RE, sweet corn is 28 RE, and cabbage is
Further Development by Seed Companies
released the germplasm to seed companies in 1989. Companies such
as Stokes worked to further improve the germplasm, and released
it as a numbered variety to commercial growers like Rick and Laura
Pedersen of Pedersen Farms in Seneca Castle, NY. They grew the
orange cauliflower last summer and sold it to Wegmans. "It
has a narrow harvest window, but it was fairly well received," says
Rick. He plans to plant three acres of the colorful vegetable this
July, and will harvest it from September to November.
The vegetable is available to commercial growers and home gardeners.
Johnny's Selected Seeds markets an orange cauliflower called "Citrus," and
is limiting orders to 5000 seeds for 2004. "I sell most of
it to producers in NY, NY and Long Island who grow it for upscale
restaurants and farmers' markets," said seed representative
Di Cody, at the Empire Fruit & Vegetable Expo in February. "Growers
like the color it brings to fall harvest markets because it looks
good with pumpkins. Restaurateurs like the color and interest it
brings to vegetable trays." Seminis expects to have their
variety named and ready for commercial sales by mid-summer.
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Related Web Sites:
Pedersen Farms: http://www.pedersenfarms.com/
Johnny's Selected Seeds: http://www.johnnyseeds.com