UF/IFAS research, breeding showcased at Flavors of Florida

UF/IFAS Flavors of Florida 2015

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences produce some of the nation’s tastiest fruits and vegetables.

Researchers at UF’s Plant Innovation Center breed new cultivars and conduct research to boost the taste, smell and appearance of Florida fruits, vegetables and foliage. But the PIC does much more, said UF environmental horticulture Professor David Clark.

“The big thing is this: No other university in the country can pull off what we’ve put together here, so we are novel,” Clark said. “We cover the whole supply chain, from the conception of an idea to the realization of a product.”

UF faculty, administrators and friends gathered Monday at the UF president’s house in Gainesville for Flavors of Florida 2015, a premier event showcasing the edible research products of the UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center. Industry leaders, donors and guests savored the sensations of tasty tomatoes, flavor-filled fruits and other Sunshine State food and drinks while learning more about the impact that UF/IFAS makes for the agriculture industry. This is the second year the event has been held.

This year’s featured varieties were the “Chickadee,” “Kestrel” and “Emerald” blueberries; the “Sweet Sensation” strawberry; the “Garden Gem” tomato; the “Sugar Belle” mandarin and the “Hybrid” lemon lime. Also featured were the “UFSun” and “UFBest” peaches, “Viva Limone” and “Viva Cannella” basils, Florida Sweet Corn, “Gator Glory” coleus and Florida caladium hybrids.

Sunlight potatoes, Florida Datil peppers, Florida beef, Swamp Head beer, First Magnitude beer, St. Augustine Distillery vodka, Sunray Venus clams and GatorGrind grits, all foods and drinks with UF/IFAS connections, were also featured.

Flavors of Florida was created to showcase the PIC and the UF/IFAS plant breeding program. The PIC spans four UF units: UF/IFAS, the College of Medicine, the Warrington College of Business Administration and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Plant scientists/breeders are just one part of the group, Clark said. PIC faculty include sensory experts who understand how a better color or flavor affects human behavior, and they find out what people like – they work with plant scientists who find out the genetic and biochemical components of fruits and vegetables, and together they come up with the genetic recipes for new plants that people will like more and pay more to consume.

The breeders take this information and make the new varieties, Clark said. PIC has experts who then figure out how best to produce the new varieties and others who know how to get them through shipping and handling with maximum sensory appeal and still others who market the varieties to the public.

“As a result, we now have a cohesive group of the finest cross-discipline faculty in the country and a potential new consumer brand of food products that will be another outlet for what we do and the plants we produce,” Clark said.

These experts and others united to put on the event, which also featured Dean Cacciatore, the chef owner of Cacciatore Catering and Pizza; Adam Fehrenbacher of Mildred’s Big City Food and Briton Dumas, the co-owner and executive chef at Embers Wood Grill – all in Gainesville.

UF/IFAS thanks its partners for supporting Flavors of Florida, with special thanks to Platinum Partner Straughn Farms and Gold Partner the Florida Tomato Committee. Silver Partners are the American Seed Trade Association, Blue Sky Farms, Callaco Services, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, First Magnitude Brewing Company, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Florida Foundation Seed Producers Inc., the Florida Olive Council, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, H.M. Clause, Quincey Cattle Co., Florida Sea Grant, Swamp Head Brewery, Dr. Wayne Smith and Mitzi Austin and the St. Augustine Distillery.

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Cutline: UF/IFAS scientist Harry Klee, a tomato breeder, looks over some delectable delights at Monday’s Flavors of Florida event at the UF President’s House in Gainesville, Florida. The event, in its second year, celebrates fruits and other food varieties developed by UF/IFAS faculty.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: David Clark, 352-273-4577, geranium@ufl.edu