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ScienceShot: 'Dead' Cabbage Keeps on Kicking

The veggies on the produce shelf are still alive and kicking. That's the conclusion of a new study, published today in Current Biology, which shows that cabbages and other vegetables are capable of responding to their environment long after they've been plucked from the ground. Researchers bought supermarket cabbages and exposed some of them to doses of light and dark, similar to what they would see on the farm. Others were kept in either constant light or dark. Those on a regular day/night cycle created up to three times as many glucosinolates as the other cabbages. These organic compounds help fend off pests in the wild—and indeed, when the scientists exposed the cabbages to hungry caterpillars, those cabbages that saw both day and night were better able to fend them off. Glucosinolates are also anticarcinogenic. Consider that the next time you leave your veggies all alone in the cold, dark crisper.

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