The halophyte Salicornia was recently introduced as a fresh vegetable crop that thrives in extreme salt conditions. Two annual Salicornia and two perennial Sarcocornia ecotypes were investigated for yield production and nutritional value in response to different seawater concentrations in the irrigation solution. A harvest schedule based on a three-week cycle gave better productivity than a two-week or a four-week cycle. Total yield declined with increasing percentage of seawater above 50% in the irrigation water, however annual plants had always ca 2-3-fold higher fresh biomass in comparison to their perennial counterparts. Increased percentages of seawater in the irrigation solution had the following effects on ion concentrations in the shoots: no change in Ca2+ and Mg2+, a slight increase in K+, and marked elevations in Na+ and Cl-. Importantly, total polyphenol, β-carotene and ureides, all known for their antioxidant capacities, rose with increasing seawater percentage, findings that indicated improved nutritional values for Salicornia and Sarcocornia irrigated with high concentrations of seawater. Impressively, both the annual Salicornia and the perennial Sarcocornia ecotypes exhibited high total shoot lipid contents of up to 2.41 and 2.06mgg-1 fresh weight, respectively, which included an omega-3 fraction of 47.6 and 41.2% of the total fatty acid content. Moreover, the high fatty acid content of the annual Salicornia ecotype was not significantly affected by increasing seawater concentrations. In this study, we thus demonstrated the feasibility of cultivating Salicornia and Sarcocornia by applying a multiple harvest system and 100% percentages of seawater in the irrigation water generating economic yields with high nutritional value. The findings also showed that Salicornia and Sarcocornia leafy vegetables may attract additional interest as an alternative source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for human consumption, even when the crop irrigated solely with seawater.
- Antioxidant compounds
- Cash crop
- Multiple harvest
- Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids