Researchers claim to have found a new way of prolonging broccoli's shelf life.
A University of Illinois team found that a combination of two plant compounds not only increased durability, but also boosted the presence of cancer-fighting agents in the vegetable.
The study was published in North American medical journal PLOS ONE.
One of the researchers, Jack Juvik, told Canada's CTV News: "We had figured out ways to increase the anti-cancer activity in broccoli, but the way we figured it out created a situation that would cause the product to deteriorate more rapidly after application.
"If we could figure out a way to prolong the appearance, taste, and flavor long after harvest and maintain the improved health-promoting properties, that's always of great interest to growers."
Researchers began by spraying broccoli plants with methyl jasmonate (MeJA), a non-toxic plant-signal compound, four days before harvest. This compound then triggered gene activity associated with the biosynthesis of glucosinolates (GS) - compounds found in broccoli which are considered to be anti-cancer agents due to their ability to induce detoxification enzymes, which cleanse and remove carcinogens from the body.
While MeJA helps to increase these cancer-fighting abilities, it also helps to release ethylene, thus causing plant decay
The researchers then applied 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) to the same broccoli plants. This is because that compound interferes with receptor proteins sensitive to ethylene, thereby stopping or slowing the decay.
“These are not pills that go in and take away or change damaged tissues, but it’s a way to protect people by reducing the risk they currently have to different diseases,” Juvik added.