Building Better Broccoli
A pair of discoveries, reported in the journal PLoS One, may lead to better broccoli in the produce aisle. University of Illinois researchers, seeking to boost levels of anti-cancer glucosinolate compounds found in broccoli and similar vegetables, sprayed the plants shortly before harvest with methyl jasmonate. That natural, non-toxic plant signal chemical tells genes in the broccoli to produce the desired anti-cancer agents. Unfortunately, testing showed it also accelerated the production of ethylene, which causes plants to decay. Spraying a second chemical recently discovered in plants, 1-methylcyclopropene, was found to block the ethylene and prolong shelf life. The one-two punch, scientists hope, will help protect against cancer while also protecting the broccoli in your fridge.