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WSU’s On Solid Ground- Greek Yogurt Cake, Potato Field Day, Apple 38

Posted by l.meyer | July 17, 2013

Food Science Students Develop Prize-Winning Delectables

Team leader Jake Fischer rolls out the sweet potato pasta.
Team leader Jake Fischer rolls out the sweet potato pasta.

“Aphrodite’s Treats” and “S.P. Stuffed Puffs” were the top two favorites among the nation’s most innovative new food ingredient combinations at the 2013 DuPont Knowledge Award competition. Two student teams representing the Washington State University/University of Idaho School of Food Science earned first and second place with their “sinless sweet” dessert and vegetable-based pasta snack.

More Nutrition, Less Calories

The first-place recipe, Aphrodite’s Treats, updated the traditional cheesecake by substituting Greek yogurt for cream cheese. The fresh mixture provided the same satisfaction as a regular cheesecake, but with added nutrients and reduced calories. Among the team members were UI students Lynette Andersen and Athena Beckwith, and WSU students John Ock, Karin Thorsen, and Yinmeng “Iris” Sun.

Team leader Andersen reported that in the tests conducted at WSU during product development, over 80 percent of the panelists found the taste, flavor, texture, firmness, and crust to be similar to a traditional cheesecake. “Our biggest challenge was the texture,” she said. “We worked on perfecting the cheesecake consistency most of the semester.”

The second-place recipe, S.P. Stuffed Puffs, was created using sweet potatoes as a pasta-like crust to achieve a healthier alternative to existing frozen appetizer options. Team members included WSU students Jake Fischer and Un Cheng “Arica” Vong, and UI students Kari Jones and Jack McClure.

The novel baked snack qualified as a convenience food, with added appeal from two varieties of filling: “Savory Italian

First place team with “Aphrodite’s Treats” (L to R: Karin Thorsen, John Ock, Athena Beckwith, Lynette Andersen, and Yinmeng Iris Sun).
First place team with “Aphrodite’s Treats” (L to R: Karin Thorsen, John Ock, Athena Beckwith, Lynette Andersen, and Yinmeng Iris Sun).

Vegetable and Cheese” with a basil marsala cream sauce for dipping, and “Zesty Bacon Jalapeño.”

The Competition

Over 30 entries were submitted by student teams from across the country. Contestants earn the annual award by creating a unique food product using knowledge they’ve gained from their food science coursework. The concepts submitted were screened for the most innovative use of specific ingredients based on an in-depth written report and tasting of the products by a panel of judges.

Appetizer “SP Stuffed Puffs”with a basil marsala cream dipping sauce.
Appetizer “SP Stuffed Puffs”with a basil marsala cream dipping sauce.

The School of Food Science teams designed their food products as part of their senior-level capstone course Product Development (FS 489). Faculty instructor and advisor Kerry Huber oversaw the student projects. “I really enjoyed this class,” said Andersen. “It brought innovation and science together–and who doesn’t want to be able to eat their homework?”

Find out more about what the School of Food Science is doing at

-Angela Lenssen

The Big Seed Lot Trial Reveal

Before the versatile potato can be baked, fried, or mashed, growers and people in the potato industry need to know which variety of seeds develop best under what conditions. That’s why they send their seeds to the Othello WSU Research Station and travel there at the end of June to see the results.

The 2013 Potato Field Day kicked off with a ribbon cutting to publically introduce three new irrigation pivots donated to the WSU Potato Research Center by the Washington State Potato Commission (WSPC). In the past, the potato seed lots have been watered with furrow irrigation, an ancient, labor-intensive system. The new pivots will allow the potato research team to implement overhead irrigation and continue future seed lot trials, a centerpiece of Potato Field Day, said WSU extension horticulturist Mark Pavek.

A Half Century of Service

potatofieldFor years, potato seed has made its way from throughout the United States and Canada to take root in the fields of the Othello research center. The resulting potatoes undergo inspection and are flagged in the field for disease and other growth-compromising factors. This year was particularly special, said Pavek, because it marked 50 years of Washington commercial potato seed lot trials and the enduring university partnership with the WSPC.

In a typical year, the station conducts about 20 acres of research on potatoes, and the field day serves as a way to reveal and discuss what works and what doesn’t, Pavek explained. Commercial potato growers and personnel from industry, university, and government agencies also get an opportunity to interact with each other and learn about new methods to manage potato cultivars, fertility, diseases, and pests.

For more information about potato research at WSU:

-Rachel Webber

Apple Seeds of Change

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. Follow her on the web at and on Twitter @RockDocWSU.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. Follow her on the web at and on Twitter @RockDocWSU.

Today there are lots of options in the grocery stores when it comes to apples, from traditional varieties such as Jonathan and McIntosh to newer types such as Honeycrisp and Jazz. Where do all these new varieties come from? The answer lies with horticulturalists who are focused on creating fruit that is more desirable to grow as well as eat. These days, that means scientific breeding done at agricultural research and extension centers.

Recently, I met with WSU professor Kate Evans to learn more. Evans breeds apples for the growing conditions of central Washington, a powerhouse region of the country for apple production. She kindly brought samples of one of her new apples, currently known by its patent name as “WA-38.” I jumped right in by taking a bite of the new apple. I found WA-38 to be juicy, firm, and crisp. It’s tarter than Honeycrisp, which in my world is a good thing. Its texture is different too.

“It stays crisp in the mouth longer than Honeycrisp,” Evans said. “Texture is a tough quality to describe, but that’s one way of putting it.”

Building from Good Genes

The WA-38 apple is the result of traditional breeding. “We did use some DNA-informed selection,” Evans said, “but it’s not a genetically modified product.” The new variety is a cross between Honeycrisp and an apple called Enterprise. The first step was taken in 1997 when researchers collected pollen from Honeycrisp and pollinated flowers of Enterprise. During that growing season, the flowers became fruit with seeds embedded in them.

“All the seeds are like siblings in terms of the degree of relatedness they have,” Evans explained. “So there is variation in the genetics from seed to seed, and therefore in the properties of the tree and fruit those seeds will ultimately yield.”

“Right now I have 24,000 seedlings growing in the orchard,” Evans reported. “We keep an eye on them all, taking samples from the ones that look the best.”

The Many Steps to Market

Breeding apples is partly a matter of generating variation and then selecting the healthiest plants at each stage of the cycle. “It takes 5–6 years to go from the first seed of a new variety to having fruit-bearing trees of that type,” Evans told me. “In total, it takes around 18 years for the full variety development due to the several rounds of testing required before release.”

WA-38, WSU's new apple variety.
WA-38, WSU’s new apple variety.

WSU is now in the final stage of taking WA-38 to market. The university is looking for a licensee to manage the process of presenting the variety to the industry and then to consumers (see On Solid Ground March 13, 2013).

Along the way, a name for the new variety will be dreamed up. Just for fun, I’m trying to think of suggestions. If you have a brainwave for the name of a tasty new red apple, feel free to send it to me at I’ll pass it along to the right folks.

This article was adapted from the author’s Rock Doc column. For more on WSU tree fruit research, check out

-Kirsten Peters