World-Renowned A&M Vegetable Breeder Retiring

Dr. Leonard Pike has spent a lifetime growing produce, and now he's getting ready to retire.

But not before dishing the dirt on pickles, onions and his world famous maroon carrots.

It was the encouragement of his teachers that brought Leonard Pike from a garden in Hot Springs, Arkansas to international fame as a vegetable breeder.

"Upon graduation, I was offered three jobs and Texas was one of them, so I came to Texas and started working with the same three crops," said Pike.

Pickles, onions and cucumbers were the three he focused on.

Since arriving at Texas A&M University in 1968, Pike has developed the world's first pickling cucumber that can be mechanically harvested.

But it's his 1015 onions that have made worldwide news.

"My whole effort was to get onions that were uniform, more disease resistant and good flavor. They're used in salads because it has almost no pungency to it," said Pike.

And what you may remember most is the maroon beta sweet carrots which gained international attention a few years ago. They're high in beta carotene, which Pike hopes will be the latest kids craze someday soon.

This 66 year old has also helped bridge the gap between agriculture and medical research, developing food for improved health and perhaps cancer prevention.

Pike said, "If we can develop fruits and vegetables that have more of the good compounds, anyone who consumes them worldwide will benefit from them."

And even though he's been recognized world-wide for his breeding and harvesting techniques, Pike believes his greatest legacy are the students he leaves behind.

"My efforts have contributed to producing fifty some people similar in training that's going to really expand what we're going to do here," he said.

Pike will continue working as a consultant, but is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and grandchildren during retirement.


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