Anthocyanins from a variety of fruits and vegetables have been shown to possess potent antioxidant activity in vitro, but scavenging of free radicals by anthocyanins has only been demonstrated in situ in the leaves of certain plants. We report on a new sweetpotato that exhibits mottled purple flesh attributable to high concentrations of anthocyanins. By perfusing transverse sweetpotato sections with the reactive oxygen species H(2)O(2), followed by the H(2)O(2) sensitive fluorochrome scopletin, we show that anthocyanins act as antioxidants in situ within the sweetpotato storage roots. We also demonstrate in vitro antioxidant activity by sweetpotato anthocyanins, where an additive effect with hydroxycinnamic acids is observed. Anthocyanic foods have been shown to offer protection against a variety of degenerative disease processes. Given that sweetpotato can be eaten several hundred grams at a time and as a staple, these data are consistent with the possibility of superior health protection by anthocyanic varieties of sweetpotato in comparison to most common fruits and vegetables.