ORONO, Maine (AP) _ Berry muffins, berry pancakes, berry ice cream and berry pastries are popular fare in New England, but blueberry burgers?
Keith Moore, a graduate student at the University of Maine, has been mixing blueberries and cranberries into ground beef to make a better-tasting frozen burger.
``The first reaction I get from people, typically, is `Oh,‴ he said. ``I don’t let them get away with just an `Oh.′ I explain.″
Moore is trying to determine whether the antioxidant properties of blueberries and cranberries can retard a chemical reaction that causes an odd flavor when meat is cooked, chilled and reheated.
He hopes to preserve meat’s fresh flavor without letting people see or taste the berries. His $12,000 study, funded by the Maine Blueberry Commission, could lead to a new market for the fruit.
School lunch programs, nursing homes and other institutions that reheat meat could use it to preserve flavor. Fast-food restaurants could cook burgers one day and reheat them in a microwave the next, without sacrificing taste, he said.
The mixture might even provide health benefits from the antioxidants, which help fight heart disease, Moore said.
The berry burger combo is just one of the sometimes-odd culinary combinations that researchers test in the university’s food sciences lab in Orono.
Dehydrated blueberries and frozen soft-shell lobster, which both have become important lines of business for Maine companies, originated in the food science lab in recent years.
A new $4 million building with an expanded kitchen suite and food-tasting laboratory will be built next year to increase the amount of testing and private-industry work being done in the food science and nutrition department.
``We hope to branch out into non-food products, like is your toilet paper really softer?″ said Mary Ellen Carmine, director of the lab program.
As for the berry burgers, Moore doesn’t think there would be a home market for the concoction. People would be too turned off by the idea of berry-beef to try it.
Finding test participants is one of the biggest challenges that researchers face. With three to six taste tests happening every week, there’s not much novelty to draw participants.
There’s no shortage of tasters when the subject is lobster, but more unusual combinations like blueberries and beef are trickier.
Test participant Charles Wallace, head of animal science at the college, said the berry burgers were ``pretty good.″
He sampled a cranberry burger, a blueberry burger and a plain beef burger. He said he could not tell which burgers contained the fruit.
Moore has no problems with berry beef.
``If I have any left over, I take it home and use it in lasagna, meatloaf, burgers, whatever,″ he said.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) _ Corn and sorghum crops are good this year, but now Texas farmers face depressed market prices for the commodities, the Texas Agricultural Extension Service reports.
Charles Stichler, extension agronomist in Uvalde, said the corn and sorghum harvest was in full swing until showers across South Texas slowed it down.
``The harvest has not been delayed that much,″ he said, ``because the rains have been scattered.″
Stichler said the crop is good, but storage and sale of the corn and sorghum is presenting a problem for farmers.
``Grain facilities are still full from last year,″ he said.
Stichler added that prices are depressed compared to three years ago.
``They’ve had a good corn crop in the Midwest for the past several years and market prices are very low right now,″ he said.