According to Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Science and Technology master"s candidate Manuela Gallón, the Functional Food Research Group headed by Professor Misael Cortés is currently working on the potato "Primavera" (Spring) variety, a diploid potato (half the chromosomes of a normal potato) which has improved agronomic and nutritional characteristics and are looking to use it for industrial potato chip production.
This potato is resistant to diseases such as powdery scab and potato blight and has a high amount of antioxidant compounds on the surface, especially anthocyanins. Potatoes are soft-textured and purple-red colored; the pulp is a mixture of red-purple and cream colors.
This new variety is the result of more than 20 years of work from researchers of the UNal-Medellín and Bogotá Potato Genetic Improvement Program.
For this they have been using vacuum frying technology which works with lower than local barometric pressure and therefore frying temperatures are lower, preserving a greater amount of bioactive compounds. The process was carried out in a UNal-Medellín reactor.
After obtaining the fried potato chips, researchers analyzed the antioxidants and total phenols as well as texture, color, moisture, water activity, and peroxide rate with the purpose of determining the characteristics of the product after the vacuum frying process. They also compared these chips with traditional fried potatoes.
"We observed that this vacuum fried potato variety preserves 69% more phenolic compounds than regular fried chips; in other words, they maintain most antioxidant compounds," said Gallón.
Furthermore, it allows obtaining potato chips with 35% fewer peroxide compounds, i.e. the oil oxidizes less. It also has better texture, moisture and color and best of all, 66% less fat.
With the tests and observations mentioned above, they proved that with this technology potatoes are better preserved and the sensorial properties are also improved as they are more stable; new flavors are added and thanks to its purple color it as gastronomically attractive.
"We hope to transition to the snack market because these potatoes have greater nutritional values and we are also providing greater stability, enabling increased marketing cost," she said.
A work of 15 years
Currently, they are assessing the duration of fried potatoes and how they behave when stored under certain conditions. At the end of the research project they hope to enter into an agreement with any firm to begin to market the product.
Producing this new potato variety was the work of José Miguel Cotes Torres, UNal-Medellín professor and head of the research project who explained that these are the first potatoes in the world that have been reported to have antioxidants and also resistant to diseases.
These new crops are providing innovations in the market and supporting small and mid-sized producers.
The process involved a stage of close to 15 years analyzing topics of diseases resistance and variety features. They spent one-year performing crosses and another four choosing the genetic material.