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Food technologists at the University of the Philippines

Food technologists at the University of the Philippines Los Baños have identified local squash varieties that may be used for food processing.

Squash is a nutritious and commercially important vegetable planted in many regions in the Philippines. The government is now pushing for large- scal production of nutritious and affordable vegetable-based food items.

Unlike in countries such as the USA, squash varieties bred specifically for processing are unavailable in the Philippines. Local manufacturers merely use varieties already available in the market. But as vegetable processing is being intensively promoted by the government, squash has a huge potential for processed food, e.g., noodles, soup, baby food, packed snacks and bread.

Dr. Linda Mabesa and Mr. Wilson Tan, researchers at the Food Science Cluster, College of Agriculture, UPLB evaluated the qualities of 35 squash varieties from all over the country in order to determine possible indices of squash quality for processing.

A physico-chemical analysis and sensory evaluation of samples was made. From the samples, squash flour and noodles, frozen squash slices and squash puree were also prepared and evaluated.

UPLB researchers said they have identified properties such as color, texture, cohesiveness, and most especially, sweetness and flavor, as important determinants of acceptability for processing. None of the varieties evaluated had all the desired traits and qualities sought for processing. The researchers, however, identified five varieties that can be used in developing squash-based products, researchers added.

Dr. Mabesa said that Suprema 1 and 2, hybrid varieties released by the East-West Seed Company, can be used for frozen squash slices in ready-to-cook vegetable packages.

TheSan Marcelino variety from Zambales was found suitable for making puree to be used as ingredient in veggie drinks. This and the variety called Tinuning from Pampanga can also be made into flour and variety Acc 206-1 from the National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory in UPLB scored highest in total soluble solids present, Dr. Mabesa said.

The study made by Dr. Mabesa and Mr. Tan was part of a project funded by the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research, aimed at collecting squash germplasm and develop varieties for the food processing industry.(PNA)

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