Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

Broccoli Sprouts Pack A Punch

by Charlie Nardozzi

If you don't particularly care for broccoli, try eating broccoli sprouts.

The same Johns Hopkins University researchers who found six years ago that eating broccoli may reduce the risk of developing cancerous tumors have now found that the beneficial active ingredient in the broccoli, sulforaphane, is actually present at levels 20 to 50 times greater in 3-day-old broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane is present in broccoli relatives, too, but amounts are highest in broccoli. To get the amount of sulphoraphane present in 2 pounds of broccoli, you need to eat only 1/4 ounce of sprouts.

Broccoli sprouts are not widely available in health food stores, but gardeners can easily buy the seed and grow the sprouts. The first step is to find untreated seed. (Most seed available through catalogs is treated with fungicides for better germination.) Sulforaphane levels are the same in all varieties, but seed from open-pollinated varieties is less expensive than seed from hybrids.

Sprinkle enough seed to cover the bottom of a large glass jar (about 2 tablespoons); soak the seed overnight in warm water. Cut a small piece of screen mesh or netting to fit over the lid to allow air and moisture to enter and to keep the seeds and sprouts from falling out if you move the jar. Secure the mesh with rubber bands or canning-jar rings, then let the jar stand undisturbed overnight.

In the morning, rinse the seed with cool water, and drain well. Leave the sprouts in the kitchen exposed to indirect sunlight. Rinse with cool water two or three times daily. After three days, green seedlings should appear, and you can start to harvest them. Their flavor is a little stronger and spicier than that of alfalfa sprouts. Sprouts will continue to grow for about a week, before exhausting their nutrient reserves. Store mature sprouts in the refrigerator.

Charlie Nardozzi is senior horticulturist at National Gardening.

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