The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the U.S. has developed and released the world’s first true red spinach variety, which works both frozen and canned, according to a press release by the USDA.
Spinach is one of the most desirable leafy vegetables with high levels of beta-carotene (provitamin A), lutein, folate, vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.
The red color of USDA Red comes from the phytonutrient betacyanin rather than the more common anthocyanin. Betacyanin is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to significantly reduce oxidative stress in patients and may even help in preventing chronic, pathologies, inflammation and life-threating conditions, according to the scientific literature.
The antioxidant capacity of USDA Red was 42-53% higher than other spinach cultivars in five tests conducted over three years. The USDA Red is a semi-flat type of spinach with a medium growth rate and semi-erect leaves. Its leaves are spade-shaped with round-pointed tips and purple-red veins and petioles. Compared with other spinach varieties, it has moderate resistance to bolting.
“Betacyanin adds another benefit to a plant already loaded with phytonutrients, making spinach a true superfood. Red spinach can be used as baby or ”teen” leaf in salad bags, as bunched products, and in spring mixes for fresh-market consumption. The red color in spring mixes is currently provided by red lettuce, radicchio or chard. Red spinach will give processors another choice,” said Beiquan Mou, the ARS research geneticist who developed the new variety.
ARS has applied for a Plant Variety Protection certificate for USDA Red and the agency is seeking a partner to license production of the seeds for the market.