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Carotenoid composition from strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo L.) fruits.

AuthorsDelgado-Pelayo, Raúl ; Hornero-Méndez, Dámaso
Strawberry tree
Arbustus unedo
Issue Date20-Jun-2010
CitationInternational Congress on Pigments in Food (6th. 2010. Budapest, Hungría)
AbstractThe strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo L.) is an evergreen shrub or small tree usually smaller than 5 m, belonging to the Ericaceae family, and typical of the Mediterranean basin and climate, although it can be also found in other regions such as the Near East and Transcaucasia. The fruits are spherical berries, about 1.5-2 cm in diameter, dark red and tasty when fully ripen in autumn and winter. The berries can be eaten as fresh fruits, but they are usually prepared as preserves, jams, jellies, and marmalades. The name 'unedo' is explained by Pliny the Elder as being derived from unum edo "I eat one", which maybe due to the alcoholic content of overrippen fruits. In some countries the fruits are used to produce alcoholic beverages such as wines, liquors, and brandies (e.g. Portuguese medronho, and Koumaro in Greece). Strawberry tree fruits are also well-known in folk medicine as antiseptics, diuretics, and laxatives, while the leaves of the plant are used as diuretic, urinary antiseptic, antidiarrheic, astringent, depurative, and antihypertensive. The chemical composition of A. unedo fruits has been study by several authors (1-3), but almost any exhaustive description of the different phytochemicals have been carried out up to date. Recent studies have focused on the description of phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids and anthocyanins, as a part of the antioxidant compositions of these fruits (4-6). However, very little attention has been paid to the carotenoid composition of these fruits, a part from the early study carried out by Schön in 1935 (7). Some of the studies analyzing the chemical and antioxidant composition of A. unedo fruits, concluded that β-carotene is the major and single carotenoid found in these fruits (2). Therefore, the aim of the present study was to carry out the isolation, identification and quantification of the carotenoid pigments responsible for the yellow-orange colour of the flesh of the strawberry tree fruits.
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