Super veges soar to the rescue

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 23/09/2012

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Super veges to compensate for our failure to eat enough greens are hitting supermarket shelves next month.

A decade in the making, the first of the Plant and Food Research-developed produce will list carrots to help you see in the dark, greens to improve bone density, and antioxidising purple cauliflowers in the VitalVegetables range.

A pre-packaged vegetable medley, three salad mixes and a coleslaw are the first in the series of veges, produced from seeds selected for vitamin and nutrient content, and grown in optimum conditions around New Zealand and Australia.

"We're trying to get people to eat their five-plus a day, but none of us are good at it," science group leader Jocelyn Eason said. "So we've selected seed lines that are genetically superior, and found ways to grow them to retain their nutrients."

Seed varieties were screened in research carried out in conjunction with Australia's Department of Primary Industries, with funding from the New Zealand and Australian governments and Horticulture Australia, to find the ones most suitable for nutrient retention.

A few consumer myths were dug up along the way, including that soil dictates harvest quality.

"It's like animal breeding," Eason said. "The strong vegetables we have that are resistant to pests, make it on to the shelves and last a week when you get home, that's down to genetics."

No gene marker selection was used, though there's potential for it.

The retail price is higher than standard veges, but lower than organic.

"It has to be healthy and convenient," Eason said. "We had to look at what customers will pay a premium for."

Green-fingered customers wanting to get their hands on superior seeds will have to wait, though some are available. As for the best places to grow, Manawatu and Canterbury fare best. Ohakune and Southland win for carrots, and Pukekohe and Nelson for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips and Chinese greens.

WHAT'S IN A SUPER VEG?

Carotenoids: In carrots and capsicums, converts to vitamin A, good for eyesight Vitamin C: Antioxidants in peppers, dark leafy greens, brocolli and cauliflower, required for tissue growth and repair Vitamin K: Found in dark leafy greens like broccoli, brussel sprouts and spring onions, supports bone structure. Fibre: Found in the stalks and skins of vegetables, regulates the digestive system. Flavonoids: Found in red, blue and purple vegetables, believed to have a variety of health benefits, including heart health Glucosinolates: Found in brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and turnips. Believed to support immunity

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