JoAnne Skelly: Miracle broccoli sprouts

I just finished reading “The Secret Power of Broccoli” by Peg Herring for Oregon State University’s Agricultural Progress magazine. I already knew that broccoli and its relatives (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, arugula, collards, radish, turnips and others) were high in antioxidants. They provide important essential nutrients and help to reduce the risk of various cancers.

Dr. Emily Ho, Director of the Moore Family Center for Nutrition and Preventative Health and a scientist in the Cancer Prevention and Intervention Program at Oregon State, looks beyond the normal health benefits of broccoli. She and her team are examining the chemical composition of this family to find the protectors against various cancers. According to Ho, “data show one-third of all cancers are linked to diet.” Herring writes, “Broccoli contains the necessary ingredients to switch on genes that can protect us from cancer, or switch off over-active genes that can lead to cancer.”

It’s the “non-nutritive “stinky socks” compound sulforaphane that helps against cancer. It has been “shown to be effective in fighting several human cancer cell lines, including prostate, breast, ovarian, colon and pancreatic cancer.” While I like broccoli, I hate the way it smells. Some people hate broccoli altogether. Although sulforaphane supplements are available, more of the compound reaches the body from eating actual broccoli. However, it takes a lot of broccoli to get enough sulforaphane to reduce cancer risk and to fight existing cancer. So, instead of eating 50 cups of broccoli a day, Dr. Ho says to eat one cup of broccoli sprouts.

To grow broccoli sprouts indoors start with a wide-mouthed quart jar with a breathable sprouting lid. Make a lid out of plastic needlework canvas from a craft store by cutting a circle of it to fit in the ring of the jar. Put two tablespoons of organic broccoli sprouting seeds into the jar and cover them with a few inches of warm water overnight in a warm dark place. After about eight hours, drain the water off. Rinse the seeds with fresh water, refill and put in the dark again. Do this two to three times daily for four to five days. Rinsing prevents the seeds from spoiling. Once the sprouts are growing and showing yellow leaves, put them in filtered sunlight to bring out their green color. Keep watering and rinsing, because they dry out in the light. They are ready to eat when they are green.

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JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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