Enhancing broccoli with extra anti-cancer benefits and longer refrigeration life is now possible with a new technique found by researchers.
Jack Juvik, a University of Illinois crop sciences researcher, explained that the combined application of two compounds, both are natural products extracted from plants, increased the presence of cancer-fighting agents in broccoli while prolonging the post-harvest storage period.
The researchers used methyl jasmonate (MeJA), a non-toxic plant-signal compound (produced naturally in plants) to increase the broccoli's anti-cancer potential, which they sprayed on the broccoli about four days before harvest. When applied, MeJA initiates a process of gene activity affiliated with the biosynthesis of glucosinolates (GS), which are compounds found in the tissue of broccoli and other brassica vegetables (such as cauliflower, cabbage, and kale).
However, during this process, MeJA also signals a network of genes that lead to plant decay by inducing the release of ethylene, Juvik explained.
"While we can use MeJA to turn on phytochemicals like the glucosinolates and dramatically increase the abundance of those helpful anti-cancer compounds, MeJA also reduces the shelf life after harvest," he said.
So the researchers tried using the recently developed compound 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), which has been shown to interfere with receptor proteins in the plant that are receptor-sensitive to ethylene. They applied the compound after harvesting the same broccoli that had already been treated with MeJA before harvest.
Juvik added that ethylene will move and bind to ethylene receptors and that binding process initiates decay, which basically stops or dramatically slows down the decay associated with ethylene.