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  • Author or Editor: Richard D. Richins x
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The carotenoid content of fresh fruits, like chiles or peppers (Capsicum annuum L.), is a desirable fruit quality trait because these compounds increase the nutritional value of the fruit. Carotenoids in general serve as antioxidants, whereas specific carotenoids are pro-vitamin A types and yet others are necessary for retinal pigments. In the plant, carotenoids function to harvest light energy during photosynthesis, act as antioxidants in multiple cell types, and pigment fruit and flowers to attract pollinators and seed dispersal agents. All of these cells presumably accumulate carotenoids through the same biosynthetic pathway. We investigated the relationship between light levels in the growth environment and the carotenoid levels that accumulated in mature fruit and leaves. Three chile cultivars with orange fruit, ‘Fogo’, ‘Orange Grande’, and ‘NuMex Sunset’, were grown under three different light conditions, shaded greenhouse, unshaded greenhouse, and field in Las Cruces, NM. Foliar carotenoid increased approximately twofold with increased light, whereas carotenoid content in fruit decreased two- to threefold with increased light. All cultivars showed identical trends with light despite having cultivar-specific carotenoid accumulation patterns in their fruit.

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Vitamin C profiles of 46 jujube cultivars were assessed from 2012 to 2015, and fruit nutrient dynamics of 10 cultivars during maturation were examined from 25 Aug. to 7 Oct. 2014 at 2-week intervals at New Mexico State University’s Alcalde Sustainable Agriculture Science Center and Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center. This is the first report in the United States profiling Vitamin C in jujube cultivars. The vitamin C content of mature fruit of 45 (of 46) cultivars ranged from 225 to 530 mg/100 g fresh weight (FW) plus ‘Youzao’ having the highest content of 820 mg/100 g FW at early mature stage. In general, drying cultivars had higher vitamin C content than fresh-eating cultivars whereas ‘Jinsi’ series (multipurpose) had relatively higher vitamin C content than others (>400 mg/100 g FW). Fruit vitamin C and moisture content decreased significantly during the maturation process. The average vitamin C contents of nine cultivars at Alcalde decreased more than 40% based on FW from 25 Aug. to 7 Oct. To maximize the vitamin C benefit, the ideal stage to consume fresh-eating cultivars is the creamy stage. Titratable acidity and soluble solids increased significantly during maturation. In mature jujubes, the titratable acidity and soluble solids ranged between 0.27% to 0.46% and 27.2% to 33.7%, respectively. Glucose, fructose, and sucrose content also rose significantly during ripening. Mature fruits contained 31–82 mg/g FW glucose, 32–101 mg/g FW fructose, and 53–159 mg/g FW sucrose among the cultivars tested. Based on sucrose contents, cultivars can be divided into two groups, “high-sucrose” (more sucrose than glucose or fructose) and “low-sucrose” (less sucrose than glucose or fructose). ‘Dagua’, ‘Honeyjar’, ‘Lang’, ‘Li’, ‘Maya’, ‘Sugarcane’, and ‘Sherwood’ belong to the “high-sucrose” group. Total phenolic content and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH)-reducing capacity in fruit decreased during maturation, and the total phenolic content of mature jujube was 12–16 mg gallic acid equivalent (GAE)/g dry weight (DW). For mature fruit, ‘Li’ and ‘Li-2’ had the highest DPPH-scavenging efficiency whereas ‘Sugarcane’, ‘So’, and ‘Lang’ had the lowest at Alcalde, NM.

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Plant pigments represent a source of non-toxic compounds that are used as food or cosmetic coloring agents. Red-fruited varieties of Capsicum annuum can be extracted to isolate the red-colored xanthophylls, capsanthin, and capsorubin. Common commercial processes for this extraction use hexane as the extracting solvent and mild or no heat varieties of Capsicum. In this report, we describe a process for efficient extraction of these red pigments using green chemistry: CO2 supercritical fluid extraction and trapping the pigments in ethanol. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this method can be performed on hot or pungent Capsicum fruit and the resulting pigment sample has very low levels of capsaicinoids, 1 to 2 ppm. This process then can reduce the use of hazardous solvents and expand the type of fruit that can be used for the extraction of red pigments.

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