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Maintaining Broccoli Freshness in Storage

Fresh broccoli is highly perishable and transporting it from the field to grocery stores while maintaining its freshness and nutrition is challenging. This is a valuable crop for producers with a farm gate value of $59 million in 2016 which is why Dr.  Charles Forney, a scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Kentville Research and Development Centre, has developed new technologies to preserve the quality of fresh broccoli while maintaining its nutritional and health-promoting values.

Broccoli is reputed to have many health benefits that improve digestion, cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as having anti-inflammatory and possible cancer-preventing properties. These benefits are associated with molecules in broccoli that include glucosinolates and hydroxy-cinnamic acids. As broccoli ages following harvest, it will turn yellow and concentrations of these molecules will decline.

Dr. Forney noted that treating broccoli with moist hot air slowed deterioration and yellowing and extended its shelf life. Heat treatment of 41° Celsius for 3 hours and 47° Celsius for 12 minutes delayed yellowing for a full week by slowing the loss of the green pigment chlorophyll. Concentrations of hydroxy-cinnamic acids and some glucosinolates, as well as total antioxidant capacity of florets, were significantly enhanced as these heat treatments increased expression of genes that regulate these health-promoting components.

The lower heat treatment was considered superior because the higher temperature treatment induced an unpleasant odor in the treated broccoli. This treatment has potential to enhance the healthful properties of fresh broccoli while extending its market life, which will benefit both producers and Canadian consumers.

For more information

Arturo Duarte-Sierra, Charles F. Forney, Dominique Michaud, Paul Angers, Joseph Arul. Influence of hormetic heat treatment on quality and phytochemical compounds of broccoli florets during storage. Postharvest Biology and Technology. 128 (2017). 44-53.

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