Friday, August 28, 2009

Farm to Food Bank

One of the best things about working in agricultural research is the steady stream of fresh, leftover produce that accumulates in our hallways as experimental fields are harvested.

We are currently swimming in an absurd sea of extra sweet corn.

Luckily, the food bank agreed to accept perishable food. Our local USDA lab donated a few thousand pounds of potatoes to the food bank last year. This year, the government big bosses are again generously allowing employees to donate their work hours to glean harvested experimental fields. So 3 USDA employees, my boss and I headed out for a few hours this morning and picked several hundred pounds of sweet corn. The guy who orchestrated the delivery said it would all be given out by the end of the afternoon!

Highlights of the day?
My boss pointed out that individual leaves of some of the harvested corn plants were intensely purple. The entire plant this late in the season is doing nothing but making sugar at a breakneck pace and shoving it as fast as possible into the ears (for reproduction!). When you pick an ear, the plant is still shoving huge amounts of sugar into that (now empty) node. The plant deals with this huge surplus of sugar by conjugating the sugar molecules to anthocyanidin molecules, and stuffing them into the cells' central storage vacuoles within the nearest leaf. Anthocyanidins + Sugars = Anthocyanins, which are brightly colored pigments!

Later on, I was popping off ears, checking for corn borer damage and tossing them into bins when I noticed a splash of bright red on one of the husks. I showed it to the guy next to me, wondering if it was some weird fungal growth. He said it was blood from an animal - which I laughed at since, although corn leaves are notoriously sharp, it was too bright to be any older than a minute or two. Then the guy on my other side pointed out the blood pooling in my right hand!

Corn is sharp!

(I'm fine and I left those ears for the deer by the way)

1 comment:

  1. Two thumbs up for being able to do a good deed with your leftovers!



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