The cabbage’s clock

Plants continue their biological routines even after being picked

By Stephen Ornes, 17:25 PM June 27, 2013


Fruits and vegetables live even after they’ve been picked, say scientists. Plants keep functioning on a 24-hour cycle — including producing chemicals to keep hungry insects like this one away. Credit: Goodspeed et al.


A newly harvested plant, fruit or vegetable does not turn off — like a switch — and die, scientists report. Instead, an internal “clock” inside the fresh-picked plant continues to tick away. It responds to light and darkness, just as when it had been rooted in the soil.


Biologists refer to the chemical processes that turn food into usable energy as metabolism. And even after plants are harvested, “they’re still metabolizing,” study leader Janet Braam told Science News. “They’re still alive....

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