In the Pacific Northwest, June through October are some of the busiest months for harvesting veggies, especially leafy greens! Lettuces, cabbages, peas, beans, broccoli, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, etc are all in season and most delicious during the summer months. A few members of this in-season harvest are especially awesome due to their levels of sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane is a chemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage which has been shown to protect the stomach-lining, regulate blood sugar, and have anti-inflammatory mechanisms that are shown to slow aging and fight cancer. Wow! This wonder-chemical is produced by cruciferous vegetables as part of a defense mechanism found in plants to protect themselves from herbivores. Damage to the plant activates the defense mechanism, so research is being done on cooking methods to find which is most productive.
Studies on broccoli have shown that boiling or microwaving (though I hope you’re not microwaving any of your food as it destroys the nutrients) significantly decreases sulforaphane production. Instead, it has been shown that chopping into small pieces and leaving to sit for up to 90 minutes before stir-frying produces the most sulforaphane. Leaving it to sit is important as it gives the plant time to produce the chemical. Other studies have shown that adding mustard seed (which is a potent source of myrosinase, the enzyme which kick-starts sulforaphane production) to a chopped/cooked cruciferous vegetable also optimizes sulforaphane availability.
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