Researchers breed sweet pepper with hot health benefits

07/09/2014 11:40:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

sweet pepperCourtesy University of Maine509-45-1, a pint-sized sweet pepper with a big health benefit.U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Maine researchers have developed a mild pepper with all of the health benefits of a hot pepper.

Using traditional breeding methods, Robert Jarret with USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Griffin, Ga., and Jason Bolton and L. Brian Perkins with UMaine in Orono, developed the small-fruited Capsicum annuum L. pepper.

Hot peppers contain capsaicinoids, chemicals that give them their heat. But the plant-based chemicals also are antioxidants, providing health benefits, according to a news release.

Capsinoids—closely related compounds—provide all of the health benefits without the heat and pungency.

Beginning in 2006, the researchers screened more than 500 subspecies of Capsicum annuum for the highest concentrations of capsinoids.

Through repeated selections and cross-breeding, they wound up with 509-45-1. The peppers are small, and each plant can produce up to 1,000 fruit.

But the breeding isn't done. Perkins says they'll likely make additional selections to enhance marketability, both as a food product and for medical experiments.

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