Gum Tragacanth

Gum tragacanth (2,4-6), is the dried exudate of Astragalus species. It is produced from natural or deliberately made wounds in the roots, trunks, and/or branches of the small bushes, comes for the most part from Iran and Turkey, and is relatively expensive. Its use, therefore, is quite limited.

Gum tragacanth contains two polysaccharides. One (60-70%), termed both tragacanthic acid and bassorin, only swells in water, forming a gel. Tragacanthic acid contains a highly branched, acidic galactan covalently bound to protein. The minor polysaccharide is a neutral arabi-nogalactan in which l-arabinose is the predominant monosaccharide; it most probably consists of a core galactan chain to which highly branched arabinan chains are attached.

The most important physical properties of gum tragacanth are its relative acid stability, ability to lower surface and interfacial tensions, and hydration to a gel. The primary use of gum tragacanth is as an emulsifying agent and water controller in low pH foods. Gum tragacanth is found in some pourable salad dressings and pickle relishes and in certain bakery products.

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