Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
March 27, 2002
Need a vitamin C boost? Try a handful of broccoli florets
Applying less nitrogen to broccoli crops can increase the vitamin C content by about 13 per cent, according to a new study by University of Guelph researchers.
Raw broccoli is already considered a rich source of vitamin C, with about a third more ascorbic acid by weight than an orange. Reducing nitrate boosts the vitamin C content even more, says technician Cathy Bakker of the University's Simcoe research station, who conducted the research along with plant agriculture professors Clarence Swanton and Alan McKeown. Less nitrate also means less contamination of streams, rivers and groundwater. "I think we have an environmentally sensitive product here that could be the orange of Ontario," Swanton said.
The findings on vitamin C are a bonus for the research project, which was originally designed to find the best balance between optimal broccoli yield and quality and the least amount of nitrogen fertilizer. Bakker tested two varieties of broccoli and seven nitrogen application amounts. The trade-off is that extremely low amounts of nitrogen result in "light, loose, misshapen" heads of broccoli. But Swanton added that if the low-nitrogen broccoli were harvested early while the florets were still small and compact, "we could have a new product designed specifically to be marketed as a high vitamin C product. Because we're using lower nitrogen, we're not going to get the best yields, but we could be producing bags of high vitamin C broccoli 'buds' already cut, ready for consumption."