Issue Date: May 5, 2008
Seawater Boosts Tomato's Antioxidants
Irrigating cherry tomatoes with diluted seawater produces tastier fruit with increased antioxidant levels, according to a new study (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf0733012). Numerous studies have linked antioxidants found in tomatoes to health benefits, such as protection against heart disease and some cancers. And although tomatoes grown in saline conditions are known to be smaller, researchers know little about how salt affects a tomato's nutritional content. Riccardo Izzo, Cristina Sgherri, and colleagues at the University of Pisa, in Italy, grew cherry tomatoes in a greenhouse with freshwater or 12% diluted seawater. Using liquid chromatography, the researchers found that the cherry tomato grown with saltwater (shown) contained more sugar (37%) and higher levels of antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C (20%), vitamin E (20%), dihydrolipoic acid (31%), and chlorogenic acids (15%) than the same variety irrigated with freshwater. The ability to grow tomatoes in salty water could be important in arid climates with limited freshwater, the authors note, but they caution that repeated use of even dilute seawater could harm soil quality.
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