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Blueberries, Tortillas, Wine Auction, See You in 2010

Posted by | December 9, 2009

Radiant Zone Dryer Preserves Antioxidants in Dried Blueberry Powder

It’s well known that blueberries are good for you. Rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, consumption of blueberries is associated with improvement of ischemic stroke outcomes and antioxidant capacity in blood plasma after eating them. (In ischemic stroke, blood supply to part of the brain is decreased, leading to dysfunction of the brain tissue in that area.) In pigs, reduced levels of plasma lipids have been found in association with blueberry consumption while rodents have been found to overcome the genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease.

In comparison to most other berries, blueberries have higher antioxidant activity and anthocyanin content. (Anthocyanins are the compounds that, among other things, give wine its color). Consequently, there is a large consumer demand for fresh blueberries as well as their products.

Blueberries, though, are a seasonal crop with a short shelf life as a fresh product. To meet consumer demand, fresh berries have to be either frozen or otherwise processed. Because maintaining frozen products may be cost-prohibitive, there is a growing interest in developing cost-effective preservation methods capable of minimizing the degradation of anthocyanins in processed berry products such as powders.

Now, a technology developed by Columbia PhytoTechnology and WSU assistant professor of food science, Kerry Ringer, takes blueberry drying to the next level. The technology meets consumer demands for highly nutritious foods at the same time as addressing industry concerns about costs.

A recently published study about the technology shows that its dried blueberry products retain as many antioxidants and anthocyanins as liquid products.

Called the Radiant Zone dryer, Columbia’s technology customizes drying times and temperatures to get the best product at a reasonable cost. By using damaged or bruised fruit, the technology recovers profit from the loss columns of producers’ and processors’ books. Located in rural Dallesport, Wash., Columbia hopes to play a role in the economic development of the area by dovetailing tech jobs into the area’s rural economy.

“We focused on dehydration of blueberry puree, blueberry juice and blueberry extract supplied by a Washington fruit processing company,” said Ringer. “This project demonstrated the development of value-added products that potentially bolster profit margins and the types and numbers of jobs in agriculture, Washington’s No. 1 industry. The Radiant Zone Dryer technology also provides options to ag producers for processing waste.”

WSU food scientist Kerry Ringer is part of a team that invented and tested the Radiant Zone Dryer.

WSU food scientist Kerry Ringer is part of a team that developed and tested the Radiant Zone Dryer.

“Effect of the Novel Radiant Zone Drying Method on Anthocyanins and Phenolics of Three Blueberry Liquids” by Moumita Chakraborty, Mark Savarese, Eileen Harbertson, James Harbertson, and Kerry L. Ringer was published in the Dec. 2 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and is available online to subscribing institutions by visiting:

Hispanic Food Network Program Features WSU, Shepherd’s Grain Partnership

A Hispanic Food Network program featuring the science of WSU wheat breeder Kim Kidwell, her partnership with Fred Fleming of Shepherd’s Grain Flour and his partnership with a Spokane tortilla factory and WSU dining services will air multiple times on television stations throughout eastern Washington in December and January.

The “Circle of the Tortilla” episode of En La Cocina or In the Kitchen tells the story of how the Tara Red wheat variety bred by Kidwell and grown by Fleming in Reardon, makes its way to DeLeon’s tortilla factory in Spokane. The final destination for “Sergio’s” tortillas? Carlita’s Café in the WSU Compton Union Building.

The Hispanic Food Network is a new enterprise with headquarters in Spokane and features television reporter Mike Gonzalez.

Mike Gonzalez of the Hispanic Food Network

Mike Gonzalez of the Hispanic Food Network

For program air dates plus a video clip from the program featuring the wheat-to-flour-to-tortilla partnership, please visit:

Learn more about the partnership between WSU Dining Services and Shepherd’s Grain by visiting:

Tickets Available for WSU Viticulture & Enology Program Gala

Tickets are now available for the ninth annual “Celebrate Washington Wine” gala to benefit WSU’s Viticulture and Enology Program. Proceeds from the 2010 fundraising event primarily will be dedicated to providing undergraduate and graduate scholarships and student academic exchange programs.

Event planners are working on some new features for the annual black tie dinner and auction, including an online auction and an opportunity to test your luck with a wine “grab bag.” Grab bag participants will pay a flat fee for the opportunity to select an anonymous bottle from the grab bag selection. Will your “grab” net you a nice $25 bottle of fine Washington wine — or will your luck bring you a hard-to-find $100 bottle?

So mark your calendar for Saturday, Jan. 30 to attend this intimate event held at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and help WSU provide the research and the highly trained workforce to support the future of Washington’s wine industry. Tickets are $250 per person, or $2,500 for a VIP table of ten. The event has sold out in past years, so make your reservations early.

For sponsorship or donation information, or to make reservations please visit or call (509) 335-7772.

Thoomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU's program in viticulture and enology

Thomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU’s program in viticulture and enology.

Visit the online auction to bid on hard-to-find bottles of wine, Cougar wine memorabilia and more:

Happy Holidays!

On Solid Ground is going into hibernation for a month as we give our editorial elves a brief holiday. On Solid Ground will be back with a new issue on Jan. 13. See you in 2010 — and have a great, warm and safe holiday!

See you in 2010!