Non-heading Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa
L. subsp. chinensis
) is a widely consumed leafy vegetable by the rural people in South Africa. Traditional blanching methods (5%, 10% or 20% lemon juice solutions in steam, microwave treatments and hot water bath at 95 °C) on the changes of colour properties, phenolic metabolites, glucosinolates and antioxidant properties were investigated in this study. Blanching at 95 °C in 5% lemon juice solution maintained the chlorophyll content, reduced the difference in colour change ∆E, and increased the total phenolic content and the antioxidant activities (ferric reducing-antioxidant power assay (FRAP) and Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) assay). The highest concentration of kaempferol-dihexoside, kaempferol-sophoroside, kaempferol hexoside, and ferulic acid was noted in samples blanched in 5% lemon juice, at 95 °C. However, concentrations of kaempferol O
-hexoside was highest in raw leaf samples. Supervised Orthogonal Projections to Latent Structures Discriminant Analysis (OPLS-DA) and the UPLC-MS and chemometric approach showed the acid protocatechuoyl hexose unique marker identified responsible for the separation of the blanching treatments (5% lemon juice at 95° C) and raw leaves. However, other unidentified markers are also responsible for the separation of the two groups (the raw leaves and the hot water moist blanched samples) and these need to be identified. Blanching at 95 °C in 10% lemon solution significantly increased the glucosinolate sinigrin content. Overall blanching at 95 °C in 5% lemon juice solution can be recommended to preserve the functional compounds in Nightshade leaves.
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