return to Farmers
18 , 2002
By Arnie Hydamaka, Department of Food Science
Berries - A Potential Nutraceutical Crop
in Manitoba signals the start of the native fruit industry
in the province. Apples, blueberries, raspberries, saskatoons
and strawberries are some of the more common Manitoba fruits.
Traditionally the choice of fruit for the consumer has been
one of availability, taste preference or home recipes.
have long been associated with nutrition and health. Recently,
the role of the diet in this regard has evolved with a new
classification of "functional foods" or "nutraceuticals",
foods which have health-enhancing properties in addition to
normal nutritional benefits. Fruits play a prominent role
in this new classification.
in particular which has tremendous appeal and opportunity
in the nutraceutical and functional food market is the saskatoon
berry. Saskatoon berries were picked in the wild and used
as a major food source as well as medicine by the native people
and early settlers in the Prairies. Orchard production began
in Manitoba only about 20 years ago, with current planted
acreage placing the fruit second only to strawberries as a
commercial fruit crop. In terms of nutrition, saskatoons are
a good source of the recommended daily allowance for iron
(22%), manganese (34%), calcium (11%), vitamin C (30%) and
carotene (20%) for each 100 gm serving, as well as supplying
diseases of aging are believed to result from cumulative damage
to cells by free radicals generated in the body through normal
metabolism. Free radicals also result from environmental factors
such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and chemicals
such as pesticides or herbicides. Fruits play a major role
in preventing the oxidative damage to cells caused by free
radicals. This function is attributed to the antioxidant power
contained in the flavonoid composition, including pigments
which give color to the fruits.
States Department of Agriculture studies in 1998 ranked blueberries
number one in antioxidant activity compared with 40 other
commercially available fruits and vegetables. In comparison,
strawberries were slightly more than half as potent as blueberries
in antioxidant activity. Basically, the study revealed that
the more intense color the fruit, the higher the antioxidant
on these findings, and that consumer interest in eating foods
that prevent disease is at an all time high, the blueberry
industry has greatly expanded its markets and popularity in
the diet. While variety is still key to a healthy diet and
the current recommendation is to eat a minimum of five servings
of fruits and vegetables daily, just one half cup of blueberries
delivers as much antioxidant power as the recommended five
servings of common fruits and vegetables.
opportunities exist for saskatoon berries. The intense purple
color of saskatoon berries is due to the presence of pigments
called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins (from two Greek words meaning
"plant" and "blue") are part of a large
and widespread group of plant constituents known as flavonoids.
Flavonoid compounds have been attributed to provide health
benefits against chronic diseases including cancer, heart
disease, and macular degeneration. The deep color of saskatoon
berries suggest that this fruit should contain high levels
of anthocyanins and antioxidant activity similar to blueberries.
funding from the Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative
(ARDI), Graham=s Groves, a berry farm operation just south
of Carmen contracted the Food Science Department at the University
of Manitoba to study the nutraceutical potential of saskatoon
berry varieties being grown in their orchards over a two-year
research data indicates that the anthocyanin content and antioxidant
activity in saskatoons is comparable to values reported for
blueberries. The major varieties grown at Graham's Groves
B Honeywood, Smoky, Northline and Thiessen B all scored high
in test results. A recent study conducted at the University
of British Columbia reported similar findings.
research results should encourage and assist in further development
of the saskatoon berry industry in the province. Although
there may be approximately 170 saskatoon growers in Manitoba,
there are only about 10 commercialized orchards, and only
two that are involved in value-added processing. The Manitoba
saskatoon berry industry is largely based on U-pick operations,
farm gate sales, and limited retail of processed products
such as juice beverages, pies, jam, fruit toppings and jellies.
Most growers rely on the short opportunity of few weeks in
July to move the berries as fresh product.
awareness of the health benefits of saskatoons grows, market
demand will follow. A major problem is that saskatoons are
a Prairie fruit and not well known outside this area. The
subtle unique flavour of the berry and its high antioxidant
potential could soon change the market development. The nutraceutical
and functional food industry is expected to generate annual
sales of $500 billion worldwide in the next decade. Saskatoon
growers are in an ideal position to expand market potential
and share in this growth industry.