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Sunday, April 11, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Broccoli's Popularity Sprouts With Publicity

The AP

WASHINGTON - Watch out, George Bush! Broccoli is making a comeback.

After lackluster sales in the early 1990s, the vegetable once deemed by the former president as his least favorite is gaining in popularity.

One factor may be well-publicized studies showing broccoli sprouts may help prevent cancer because they are loaded with a concentrated form of sulforaphane, a powerful cancer fighter.

A second explanation is convenience, says Gary Lucier, an economist with Agriculture Department's economic-research service.

Full of vitamins and nutrients, the pre-cut and packaged fresh broccoli products fit right into the schedules of busy families.

"People are time-pressed," Lucier said. "They're always looking for ways to save time. Because broccoli growers recognized that, they came up with a range of convenience items, broccoli florets, broccoli cole slaw."

The Agriculture Department says revenue for the broccoli industry has risen 24 percent in recent years.

Retail prices for fresh broccoli in 1998 were about $1.10 a pound, a 12 percent increase from the previous year. Because of the renewed demand for broccoli, the fresh market price has jumped 27 percent since 1995, the USDA says.

The average American ate 5.6 pounds of fresh broccoli last year compared with 3.4 pounds in 1992, as well as 2.1 pounds of frozen broccoli products. The combined total of 7.7 pounds compares with 5.8 pounds in 1992.

The department reports 84 percent of broccoli consumers said they had purchased pre-cut broccoli florets in the past year.

Making healthy foods convenient has worked for other vegetables too, such as lettuce and carrots.

Lettuce, once sold just by the head, now can be found in convenient pre-cut packages. Baby carrots are packaged for that consumer wanting a fast but healthy snack.

In 1998, Americans ate about 13.6 pounds of carrots each and 7.4 pounds of leaf and romaine lettuce, compared to 8.3 and 4.7 pounds in 1992, Lucier said.

Vegetable grower Boskovich Farms in Oxnard, Calif., which leads the states in broccoli production, has seen its business for pre-cut broccoli grow in the past five years, company officials said. The prepackaged product at Boskovich Farms is sold to restaurants and institutions.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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