Wednesday, 24 December 2014

12 Facts About Your Christmas Veggies

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By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Keith Barnard, MD

Dec. 23, 2014 -- Scientists have compiled a list of fascinating facts about the vegetables that many of us will be heaping on our plates this Christmas.

A forensic analysis of our festive fare may be far from our minds as we baste the turkey and strain the Brussels sprouts, but experts at the University of Warwick's School of Life Sciences in the U.K. say there is more to our commonly cooked vegetables than we might realize.

Also, those living in dread of those Brussels sprouts can take some comfort in the knowledge that there might be a good reason why they seem so unpalatable.

Here are the 12 facts of Christmas veggies to mull over in the kitchen.

1. Don’t like Brussels sprouts? Blame your genes.

Many people can’t stand Brussels sprouts because of a gene variant that affects how they perceive bitterness, says the University of Warwick’s Graham Teakle.

People with the variant are more sensitive to the pungency of the plants, causing an unpalatable response.

2. Carrots were not always orange.

"First cultivated in Asia, carrots were originally white and purple,” says Warwick’s Charlotte Allender. “But changes in the genes controlling pigment production were exploited by farmers and plant breeders to give us the orange carrots we know today, along with less familiar colours such as yellow, red, and black."

3. University of Warwick researchers are developing better vegetables.

Researchers at the university are working on the Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network project to help plant breeders deliver improved varieties of cruciferous vegetables, lettuce, onions, and carrots.

4. Boiling destroys anti-cancer properties of vegetables.

Boiling severely damages the anti-cancer properties of many cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and green cabbage, says Paul Thornalley, professor of systems biology at Warwick Medical School.

"If you want to get the maximum benefit from your Christmas vegetables, then boiling is out," he says. "You need to consider stir frying, steaming, or microwaving them."

5. A cauliflower is not a flower.

"It’s actually proliferation of several million meristems,” Teakle says.

What is a "meristem," you might ask? "A meristem is the growing tip of a plant shoot from which all other plant organs develop," he says. "Cauliflower is unique in being the only plant to do this."

source : 12 Facts About Your Christmas Veggies

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