Katarina Cankar, plant researcher at Wageningen University & Research: “In the European CHIC project, we are working on improved industrial chicory varieties (related to witloof) that contain dietary fibre and compounds that have potential medicinal properties.” The research consortium published their results in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Chicory is a beautiful plant with blue flowers, but the interesting part is in the ground: the chicory taproots are a source of inulin, a natural sweetener that is used in bread and dairy products and as dietary fibre for healthy intestinal function. “Inulin has a positive effect on the digestive health,” says Katarina Cankar. “Normally, inulin must be separated from the bitter compounds (that are also in the root) as they cause a bitter taste. With new breeding techniques such as CRISPR-Cas, we have been able to develop a plant that no longer contains those bitter compounds. This will make the processing cheaper and easier, and in turn more sustainable, and will make a broader application of inulin possible.”