Sweet lupins provide something of an ornamental effect in any field in which they grow. And with its high protein content, the dainty plant is also now set to serve as a basis for a variety of new food products. The ‘Lupinesse’ ice cream arrived on the market a few months ago. “It’s been a total success,” says Katrin Petersen, manager of the PlantsProFood growth centre. However, the cooperation, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Research, sees Lupinesse as only the beginning.The ten companies and four research facilities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania want to tap the potential of the blue sweet lupins for a range of other food products.
Lupins, the European version of the soy plant, have been cultivated for decades as a forage crop. To date, however, the high content of bitter substances has prevented its take-up in the food industry. In the 1980s, with the blue sweet lupin Lupinus angustifolius, researchers found a variety that is low in alkaloids and resistant to many diseases. More importantly, with a 35 percent protein content, the blue variant of the leguminous plant also provides extremely high yields.
Because of their specific properties, lupin proteins are particularly suitable for food production. The high emulsifying capacity was crucial with the ice cream, for example. “This means that the ice cream is nice and creamy, and does not crystallise”, says manager Petersen. The same property is also crucial for a further project: A purely vegetarian sausage with a consistency not too far from the original animal product. Thereby, the plant proteins will be replacing the fat: Compared to 30 percent fat in a normal liver sausage, the lupin sausage contains only five percent fat, and with same consistency.
Because of their high protein content – 35 percent – the blue lupins are particularly suitable for foodstuff production. Source.JKI, Jansen
The ‘Soy of the North’ can be used in a variety of ways. The goals of the regional growth nucleus PlantsProFood are correspondingly ambitious. The partners want to establish the brand ‘ProLupin’ for vegetable food ingredients on the European market by 2018. To these ends, the University Hospital Rostock, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) Neubrandenburg, the Steinbeis Transfer Center Soil Biotechnology in Hucksdorf, as well as ROSOMA and the Fraunhofer spin-off ProLupin GmbH is jointly developing methods to extract and process lupin seeds. The seeds are then further processed in a specially designed facility to bring out the most favourable properties. “In contrast to concentrates, flour for example, in which virtually everything is present, we talk of a highly purified protein,” explains Petersen. “In addition, the result is foodstuffs without characteristic beany, lentil-like, grassy flavours.”
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The partners are developing novel foods from lupin protein together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering in Neubrandenburg. The vegetable proteins can replace eggs in baked goods, or sauces and mayonnaise, for example. “The sauces are given new properties, often softer and not as heavy as dishes containing eggs,” says Petersen. Furthermore, cutting back on eggs increases the shelf life of the food. Lupin proteins can improve the consistency of so-called convenience products, canned ravioli for example. However, lupin sausage and mayonnaise is not only likely to be interesting for the lactose intolerant among us. The cholesterol-free substitute is also gluten free, and can be a source of important proteins for vegans.
Lupins can be found on all continents, and thanks to their long roots, they grow especially well on sandy soils. Indeed, nitrogen accumulates in the roots, thus improving the soil. The lupins also tend not to push out native species. The blue lupins should not be considered a form of GM crop, says Peterson. The many genetic variations and a narrow crop rotation to make the sweet lupins an ideal candidate for conventional breeding. “We have enough material with special properties for crossbreeding,” says Petersen. The plant has already set a precedent in Northern Germany, “It’s not difficult to mobilise farmers for lupin cultivation.” Indeed, the useful plant may even find more uses in the future.
Author: Cornelia Kästner