Staff and students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff are cooking sweet potato pies, bread, chips, fries and other dishes — all in the name of teaching, research and extension. The university’s new Experimental Kitchen will help limited-resource farmers develop products from crops and offer experiential learning for students.
“The goal is to provide leadership, technical assistance, training and a hands-on learning environment for limited-resource farmers in Arkansas as well as agriculture students at the university,” said Jaheon Koo, an associate professor in the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences and a certified food scientist.
The Experimental Kitchen has commercial kitchen equipment including a convection oven, convection steamer, fryer, food processor, mixer, microwave, range, refrigerator and freezer. Funding for the facility was provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and USDA 1890 Facilities Program.
“Value-added products will be the main focus of activities that will take fruit and vegetable processing from the idea stage through ongoing market support,” Koo said. “Relevant research activities will support the production of wholesome, safe and high-quality value-added products.”
Value added is any step in the production process that changes the form of fruit or vegetables to create a product for the consumer and results in a higher net worth. Many value-added products have been developed in the Value-Added Product Laboratory adjacent to the UAPB Experimental Kitchen. The products include jams and jellies, cowpea flour and bread, Southern chow-chow, hot pepper sauces and pickles, blackberry wine, muscadine wine, sweet potato wine, sweet potato fries, sweet potato chips, sweet potato flour, sweet potato bread, sweet potato juice, canned sweet potato, apple wine, apple chips and dehydrated okra.
“The kitchen will be open to limited-resource farmers for new food product development to try out new ideas and recipes using their crops for small scale food production,” Koo said. “As a part of the ongoing sweet potato product development project, crispy sweet potato fries will be developed as one of UAPB’s signature products and supplied to the UAPB cafeteria.”
Sweet potato wine containing high antioxidant contents will be developed as a “healthy wine” for commercialization. More sweet potato products including sweet potato drinks, sweet and spicy sweet potato chips and mashed sweet potatoes will also be developed.
For more information about the UAPB Experimental Kitchen, call Koo at 870-575-7139 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.