USDA hopes to revive spinach sales with a more colorful variety

On Monday, the USDA announced a new colorful variation of spinach. Now the department hopes to partner with a manufacturer.

November 8, 2019

Unlike some super greens, whose benefits have been overexaggerated, spinach has long walked the walk (ranking No. 5 on a 2014 list of the most nutrient-dense fruits and veggies by the CDC).

But after the leafy super green was linked to a 2006 E. coli outbreak that hospitalized 102 people, spinach consumption never recovered. 

Now, the US Department of Agriculture is trying to change that. Their solution? Paint it red.

Well blow me down

Before the outbreak, annual per capita spinach consumption in the US was around 2.3 lbs. Afterwards, that number fell to about 1.6 lbs, according to the USDA.  

Beiquan Mou, a plant research geneticist at the USDA, has been working to cultivate red spinach for the last decade or so. And, on Monday, the department announced that Mou’s grand plan to gussy up the mean green with a red sheen was finished. 

Now, the USDA seeks to collab with a lucky seed company looking to make Popeye’s favorite treat more popular. 

Will a new color rejuve the veg?

That’s what Mou is hoping: “Spinach has only been green — kind of boring,” He told Quartz. “So I was thinking, maybe I could do something to change it and make it more colorful.”

The geneticist added that the new color improves the already rich vitamin and mineral levels of the plant by increasing betacyanin (a phytonutrient responsible for giving spinach a red stem) to create the rosier version.

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