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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 12:35 GMT
Lift-off for Chinese space potato
Shenzhou VI space mission
Last year's Shenzhou VI mission saw several plant experiments
Entrepreneurs in Shanghai are pushing the city's latest food fad for Valentine's Day - a purple potato grown from seeds taken on a space mission.

The sweet potato seeds were part of experiments on China's second manned space mission, Shenzhou VI, last year.

The potatoes were then grown on the beaches of southern Hainan Island.

Supporters say space-grown produce can be more nutritious and hardier, though sceptics say similar results can be obtained in Earth-bound laboratories.

A Shanghai food and drink association invited 30 local chefs to try out a variety of recipes for the Purple Orchid III potato.

They included salads appetisers, desserts and even an iced drink, the China Daily newspaper reported.

National pride

Restaurants have since cashed in on the Valentine's link by offering them in meals for couples eating out to celebrate the day.

Purple is promoted as a colour of nobility and romance in China.

The manager of the company that grows the potato, Chang Lingen, admitted it was not much different in sweetness and smell, but tasted more "glutinous".

The Shenzhou VI space mission lasted five days in October.

Experiments exposed seeds to radiation, different pressures and weightlessness.

Officials from the space programme, which creates enormous national pride in China, say it has produced a number of mutated fruit and vegetables.


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