New sweetpotatoes being developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists have less sugar and soak up less oil than traditional varieties, making the new sweetpotatoes perfect for great-tasting and nutritious chips and french fries.

For the past eight years, ARS scientists Janice Bohac and Mike Jackson, at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, at Charleston, SC, and Clemson University cooperators have used conventional breeding and selection methods to develop medium light-orange, yellow or cream-colored sweetpotato breeding lines for new uses. Bohac has been testing them in the small-scale chip-making kitchen, in her laboratory.

Unlike popular sweet, orange-fleshed U.S. varieties, the new sweetpotatoes resemble those eaten in the tropics and favored by U.S. consumers from Asia, Africa, the Carribean and South America.

The new sweetpotato chips and fries soak up less oil, because they have a higher percentage of dry matter, meaning they are more dense than traditional varieties. So, the new chips and fries are more crispy and contain less fat.

The orange or yellow sweetpotato chips and fries contain lots of nutrients--for example, high levels of beta-carotene. Just one medium-sized sweetpotato provides more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A, as well as high levels of fiber, vitamin C and folic acid.

These new sweetpotatoes grow and produce well in the South and require fewer pesticides, because they are resistant to key sweetpotato pests.

Bohac is looking for a commercial cooperator to produce and test the fries on a larger scale. If these new products catch on, they could open up new markets for U.S. farmers and new nutritious foods for consumers.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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