Foods from plants can provide enough energy and essential nutrients for maintaining human health as well as for prevention of many serious diseases. Many exotic vegetables are known for their special nutritional and medicinal properties. Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia L.), an annual vegetable of Cucurbitaceae family, is found to be one of the important vegetables of special nutritional and medicinal qualities. Germplasm lines and land races of Bitter Melon were evaluated in 2000 and 2001 for their adaptability in Southeast Arkansas. Seven adaptable lines/varieties were tested in replicated field trials for productivity at the Univ. of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Agricultural Research Center in 2002 and 2003. Melons were harvested at their marketable stages beginning in June and ending in September for yield estimation. Nutritional qualities of Bitter Melons were examined by chemical analyses conducted at the Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville (UAF) Food Science Laboratory. Analyses for antioxidants and other compounds as well as cooking qualities are currently underway. Several recipes have been tasted for consumer acceptance. The popular belief of bitter melon to improve glucose tolerance in Type II diabetes and lower blood cholesterol are being investigated. It is still to be determined if the chemical constituents such as certain alkaloids and polypeptides found in bitter melons are effective individually or in combination.
Characterization of physico-chemical properties of ecologically sound unprocessed coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) coir and carbonated rice husk in relation to rockwool were investigated to examine the crop performance along with productivity of tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.). In all substrates, the water-filled pore space and water-holding capacity were larger and air-filled pore space was smaller. Bulk densities, water-holding capacity, and water-filled, air-filled, and total pore spaces were lower in carbonated rice husk than coconut coir and rockwool. These values in coconut coir and carbonated rice husk were increased by use. Most of the physical properties, EC, pH, and inorganic elements, of these natural organic substrates were within appropriate levels as growing media. There were little differences in plant height, stem diameter, percent fruit set, harvest index, ascorbic acid, total soluble solid, fruit pH, and leaf chlorophyll ratio. But, number of nodes, internode length, leaf number and area, days to first anthesis, flower number, and fruit number and weight differed significantly among treatments. There was smaller fluctuation in absolute growth rate, relative growth rate, net assimilate rate, and leaf area ratio among the treatments. It appeared that carbonated rice husk and the coconut coir gave better crop performance than rockwool under moderate high temperatures (30 and 35 °C compared to 25 °C). Furthermore, crop productivity from the organic substrate coconut coir and carbonated rice husk gave more profit than that of rockwool. Thus, carbonated rice husk and coconut coir substrates can be used successfully as a bag culture media amendment for producing vegetables, especially in tropical and subtropical areas.
Seasonal fluctuations of carbohydrate levels and compositions and the activities of related enzymes of three cultivated tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Lady First, Momotaro, and Minicarol) cultivars were examined at 45-days interval with seven different sowing in the relatively warm climate of Japan. Fruits picked on early winter to spring seasons had higher sugar concentrations compared to hot season. Fructose and glucose in nearly equal amounts were the predominant sugar in all the seasons. Sucrose was present in trace quantities, but cherry cultivar Minicarol accumulated higher levels than the other two large-fruited types.
Acid invertase (EC 18.104.22.168) was highest at red stage during December to April, while fruit matured during May to August had lowest activity. The activity levels of soluble invertase were predominant compared to cell wall-bound fraction. The sucrose synthase (EC 22.214.171.124) showed highest activity in rapidly growing fruits followed by a very low activity with fruit maturation. Sucrose synthase showed the higher activity during November to February, and almost low activity during all the experimental periods. The sucrose phosphate synthase (EC 126.96.36.199) also showed higher activity during October to February, but the activity levels did not change drastically throughout the fruit development. The results substantiate the conclusion that, in all the planting seasons, acid invertase is a principal enzyme in the process of tomato fruit ripening and during early stage of tomato fruit development, sucrose synthase is the dominant enzyme, which, in turn, plays a part in regulating the translocation of sucrose into the fruit.
Sucrose metabolism was followed in developing fruit of domesticated cherry tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum var. cerasiforme Alef.). The high amounts of reducing sugars were consistently linked to high soluble acid invertase (EC 188.8.131.52), whereas sucrose synthase (EC 184.108.40.206) followed the same pattern of sucrose levels and reached a peak of activity during early stage of maturation and then decreased to near nil. In comparison, sucrose phosphate synthase (EC 220.127.116.11) activity remain relatively constant throughout development. Thus, sucrose synthase and acid invertase, rather than sucrose phosphate synthase, are the critical enzymes regulating sucrose accumulation in tomatoes. Cultivated cherry tomato sucrose synthase (UDP-glucose: D-fructose 2-glucosyltransferase) was purified to homogeneity by ammonium sulfate precipitation, anion exchange chromatography on DEAE-Toyopreal 650, and gel filtration on Sephadex G-200. Further purification to homogeneity resulted from a single band from SDS-PAGE. The enzyme was identified as a homotetramer with a total molecular mass of 370 kDa and subunits of 92 kDa. The enzyme showed maximum activity for the cleavage and synthesis of sucrose was at pH 7.0 and 8.0, respectively, and the optimum temperature was 40°C in both directions for HEPES-KOH buffer. The enzymatic reaction followed typical Michaelis–Menten kinetics, with the following parameters: Km (fructose),7.4; Km (UDP-glucose), 0.2612; Km (sucrose), 33.24; Km (UDP), 0.0946. The enzyme was very sensitive to inhibition by heavy metals.
The antibacterial activity of artificially grown sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] leaves was investigated against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria namely Escherichia coli (O157:H7), Bacillus and Ecolai using three different cultivars, which are developed to use as a leafy vegetables namely Simon-1, Kyushu-119 and Elegant Summer. The sweetpotato leaves were grown under different temperatures (20 °C, 25 °C, and 30 °C) and artificial shading (O%, 40% and 80%) conditions. There were some cultivar differences but the lyophilized leaf powder (100 mg) from all the cultivars in the Trypto Soya Broth cultivation medium (10 mL) strongly suppressed the growth of all the bacteria studied and its effect was detectable even after autoclave treatment. But the antibacterial extract of the leaves had no effect on the growth of five types of bifidobacterium useful for human health. The water extracted antibacterial fractions from all the cultivars were viscous and the color was brown. Furthermore, the leaves grown under moderate low temperature (20 °C) with 0% shading treatments strongly suppressed the bacterial growth as comported to other treatments, which was accompanied by significantly high accumulation of sugar and polyphenol contents in the leaves. The results also suggest that there were a strong relationship among bacterial growth and antioxidatative compounds in the sweetpotato leaves. Therefore, the antibacterial action of sweetpotato leaves may depend on their antioxidative compounds or/and pectin like materials. Thus, the practical use of sweetpotato leaves is expected to prevent bacteria caused food poisoning.
Sweetpotato leaves contain biologically active anthocyanins that have significant medicinal value for certain human diseases and may also be used as natural food colorants. Foliar anthocyanins and their relative abundance were investigated in leaves of sweetpotato cultivars `Shimon-1', `Kyushu-119', and `Elegant Summer' grown under artificial shading and different temperature conditions. High-performance liquid chromatography profiles of the cultivars tested showed similar peaks but with peak areas differing with cultivar, temperature and shading. The relative quantity of individual anthocyanin was YGM (Yamagawamurashaki)-1a> YGM-4b> YGM-1b> YGM-5a> YGM-0d> YGM-0a> YGM-2> YGM-0c> YGM-3> YGM-6> YGM-5b> YGM-0b> YGM-0f> YGM-0e> YGM-0g. Seven were peonidin and eight cyanidin derivatives. The highest anthocyanin contents were found in plants grown at a moderate temperature (20 °C) with lower levels at 25 and 30 °C. The leaves of plants grown in full sun accumulated significantly more total as well as the major individual anthocyanins than plants grown in 40% and 80% shade. The results indicate that growing sweetpotatoes at moderate temperatures and without shading facilitates the accumulation of anthocyanins in the leaves. The anthocyanin composition of the leaves is discussed relative to their physiological function in human health.