All about “Tsuburina”?

What is “Tsuburina”?

Tuburina plant
  • Left:
    Stalk of Tsuburina
  • Upper right:
    Close-up of the stalk
  •  
  • Lower right:
    Further close-up of the stalk (bladder cells)

“Tsuburina” is an annual herb that belongs to the Mesembryanthemum genus of the Aizoaceae family. Its scientific name is Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, and its English name is “common ice plant” (or “ice plant” in Japan). The plant originates from arid regions such as the Namib Desert in South Africa. The ice plant is also attracting attention because it is able to switch between C3 photosynthesis, which is performed by ordinary plants, and CAM photosynthesis, which is performed by plants in arid regions; the C3/CAM switch of the plant can be activated and controlled by adjusting its stress level.
When the minerals (such as salt) absorbed through its roots become too concentrated to be regulated in the body, the ice plant stores them in bag-shaped “bladder cells” on its leaves and stalks that are glittering and transparent. These cells give the vegetable a salty taste. Because Tsuburina is cultivated in a plant factory, it is protected from contamination with pesticides. With adequate saltiness and lack of concern about contamination, this vegetable offers good taste as well as safety and security.

Functional ingredients

Functional ingredientsThe functionality inherent in the ice plant is enhanced artificially in an enclosed plant factory. Tsuburina is a “functional brand vegetable” with medically proven health-promoting and beautifying effects.
Analysis of different parts of the plant has demonstrated that the stalks contain particularly large amounts of functional ingredients including the inositol group, beta-carotene, vitamin K, proline, and various minerals. The stalks of Tsuburina can therefore be eaten as nutritious and crunchy vegetables.
To increase the functional ingredients, stress has to be applied to the plant during cultivation. The crunchy texture of the stalks is enhanced through artificial lighting control.
The stress level is adjusted based on the light quality of the HEFL lighting units and on the mineral levels and pH (hydrogen-ion concentration) in the nutrient solution. Too much stress will stop growth, while too little stress will reduce functionality.
Main functional ingredients found in Tsuburina are described below:

Inositol Group

The inositol group, which includes myo-inositol, ononitol and pinitol, is a kind of sugar alcohol and a B-complex vitamin that is essential for promotion of cell growth. It is known to function as an “anti-fatty vitamin” by helping improve the flow of lipids and preventing fat accumulation, and to be useful for such things as hyperlipidemia, depression and alopecia. Within the inositol group, myo-inositol helps in fat suppression, while pinitol is effective in controlling blood sugar and is approved in at least one country as a functional healthy food ingredient for blood sugar control. It is reported that the inositol group is contained in strawberries, grapes, apples and other fruits, but almost no inositol is found in lettuces and cabbages that are leafy vegetables.

Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is a representative phytochemical and a carotenoid (pigment that exists only in nature) that is very effective in cancer prevention. This substance functions as vitamin A in the body, with a high anti-oxidizing effect through controlling active oxygen in the body, and is also expected to help prevent aging and relieve fatigue.

Vitamin K

This vitamin is fat soluble and is essential for normal blood coagulation. It is also believed to be essential for deposition of calcium in bones.

Proline

Protein is composed of 20 amino acids; one of these is proline, which is useful for enhancing the moisturizing action of horny skin layers, improving skin conditions and promoting normal skin renewal. As proline is also a constituent of collagen, it can be called a beautifying ingredient.

Minerals

Tsuburina is rich in minerals such as sodium (Na) and potassium (K). Sodium is said to be essential for preventing heat stroke in high summer and for adjusting the concentration of body fluids and maintaining the blood pressure. Potassium is effective in the elimination of sodium (salt) to control high blood pressure.
In addition, it has been found that the ice plant contains other minerals including calcium (Ca, helpful for development of healthy bones and teeth), zinc (Zn, promoting recovery of a normal sense of taste and generation of collagen) and manganese (Mn, helpful for accelerating the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates).

Salt content in Tsuburina

A 30g pack of Tsuburina contains approximately 0.24g of salt.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the daily salt intake should be less than 10g.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily salt intake of less than 6g.

Development of the Tsuburina business

Cultivation of Tsuburina

Cultivation of Tsuburina

Tsuburina is cultivated under artificial stress in an enclosed plant factory to increase the functional ingredients in a planned manner.
Nihon Advanced Agri is now studying a cultivation method that can further increase functional ingredients in the plant through more sophisticated control of the environment, and is also conducting academic analysis in collaboration with a medical research institute to, for example, determine whether or not the ingredients have prophylactic effects. The sophisticated functional ingredients in Tsuburina are expected to serve as new functional materials equivalent to chlorella and kale. Based on these research outcomes, we are planning to market highly-concentrated Tsuburina powder as a new natural material.
The highly-concentrated Tsuburina powder is a rare and precious natural material whose value has also been indicated by results of in-vivo tests from a prophylactic perspective. The powder has infinite potential as an ingredient for functional foods and cosmetics.

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