Oregon State University researchers see potato potential beyond just a good curly fry. Isabel Vales, a professor of potato breeding and genetics at the university’s Department of Crop and Soil Science, is on a quest to perfect rainbow taters. She’s developing potatoes ranging in color from the ruby beauty of the Red Skin Oblong to the deeply royal Purple Flesh Fingerlings because Crayola colors mean a potato is higher in phytochemicals and antioxidants. She wants to extract the nutrient-laden colors to create health food products and drink additives. Vales also sees potential in using a potato’s carbohydrates to create biopolymers, which could be used as a biodegradable substitute for plastic. It’s part of an effort to help boost the Northwest potato industry. “The potatoes are like my kids,” Vales says. “I want to find a place good for them in life.”
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