Organic, and Tastier
. . . Plants sense and respond to any kind of attack by means of
chemical signals. Cells in the attacked area first detect telltale
molecules from the invader. Then they respond by releasing warning
molecules that trigger the rest of the plant ‹ and even neighboring
plants ‹ to start producing chemical defenses. Biologists discovered
many years ago that they could induce the plant¹s defensive response
without any live insect or fungus. All they had to do was supply the
initial chemical signals ‹ the invader molecules or the plant¹s warning
At Clemson University, Dr. Hyun-Jin Kim and Professor Feng Chen recently
exploited this fact to intensify the flavor of basil plants. They
induced a defensive response in the plants by exposing them to a
material derived from chitin, a long chainlike molecule that funguses
use to reinforce their cell walls. Insects and crustaceans also build
their hard exoskeletons out of chitin. The chitin from crab and shrimp
waste is processed industrially to make a shortened form called
chitosan, and this is what the Clemson food scientists used.
They soaked basil seeds for 30 minutes in a chitosan solution, then
soaked the roots again when they transferred the seedlings to larger
pots. After 45 days, they compared the chemical composition of leaves
from treated and untreated plants. They found that at the optimum
chitosan concentration, the antioxidant activity in treated plants was
greater by more than three times. The overall production of aroma
compounds was up by nearly 50 percent, and the levels of clove-like and
flowery components doubled.
Chitosan is readily available as a dietary supplement that supposedly
encourages weight loss. When I asked Professor Chen by e-mail if
chitosan capsules from the health food store dissolved in water would
work as well as his lab-grade chemical, he replied, ³I would guess they
will have the same or similar effect.² He added, ³I would like to
encourage master gardeners to try them for fresh aromas.² . . .
. . . The total amount of the phenolic and terpenic compounds increased
after the chitosan treatment. Especially, the amounts of rosmarinic acid
(RA) and eugenol increased 2.5 times and 2 times, respectively, by 0.1%
and 0.5% chitosan treatment. . . .
. . . Moreover, after the elicitor chitosan treatment, the growth in
terms of the weight and height of the sweet basil significantly
increased about 17% and 12%, respectively. Our study demonstrates that
an elicitor such as chitosan can effectively induce phytochemicals in
plants, which might be another alternative and effective means instead
of genetic modification.
Has anybody heard of this before? I'm scratching my head, wondering why
I've never heard of it.
Some how, it seems like cheating. Morality aside, I'm pondering if I
could just pour some chitosan solution "into my potted basil". Think
I'll high-tail it on out of here to my local health food store before
it's to late in the season. Our first pesto dinner of the year is
already on the menu for Saturday. I'm running out of time (again).
Racial injustice, war, urban blight, and environmental rape have a common
denominator in our exploitative economic system.
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