Vegetables don't immediately die after harvest. According to a new study featured on ScienceDaily.com, some of them may still interact with their environment with a fully functional internal clock that enables them to continue producing antioxidants.

Biologist Janet Braam and her team from Rice University and the University of California at Davis explored the day-night cycles of fruits and vegetables, and how they may affect the production of nutrients and antioxidants.

Together with lead study author Danielle Goodspeed, researchers entrained plants in a sealed environment with controlled lighting. Entraining involves readjusting the subject’s internal circadian clock once it’s transferred to a new location. The team used post-harvest cabbages, spinach, lettuce, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, and blueberries for the trial.

The results showed that not only can they keep the plants' internal clock ticking, but they can also induce the cabbage leaves to increase their production of anti-insect metabolites at specific times of a day. One of these metabolites is an antioxidant called glucoraphanin, which has anti-cancer properties.

If you want to take advantage of your produce’s internal clock, don’t keep them stored in the dark every day. Instead, do your best to keep their daily rhythms normal until you ‘re finally ready to eat them.

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(Photo by Naomi Kuwashima via sxc.hu)

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