Although the outdoor growing season has ended here in Montana, the indoor growing season continues year-round and broccoli sprouts are the easiest and most inexpensive thing I’ve ever grown. They mature in 3-4 days and require no soil or artificial light. While they’re simple and cheap to grow, that wouldn’t be exciting unless they were also delicious and nutritious — which they are.
Broccoli sprouts are the most dense dietary source of a phytochemical called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has neuroprotective properties and performs potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer activities in humans and strong antidepressant and anti-anxiety activities in mice. Part of the beneficial action of sulforaphane is related to its role as a precursor to glutathione which is the most powerful antioxidant in the human body and is critical for immune function, detoxification, and energy production (mitochondrial function).
Research demonstrates that consuming small amounts of broccoli sprouts can deliver 10-100 times the anti-carcinogen activity of mature broccoli. And the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects of sulforaphane seen in mice were equivalent to treatment with prozac. Although the true efficacy of prozac in humans is questionable, if consuming broccoli sprouts delivers a mood-boost (real or perceived) without side effects and with many additional health benefits, it’s worth investigating. Personally, as winter rapidly approaches with its dark and cold days, I will consider any natural and side-effect free lifestyle change that could help stave off mild seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Growing your own cheap, easy, and super-nutritious broccoli sprouts seems like a no-brainer.
How-to grow your own broccoli sprouts:
Step 1: Obtain the minimal needed equipment:
- One or more quart (32oz) canning jars (I use Ball’s wide-mouth quart jars).
- A sprouting lid for each jar (I use these lids). The sprouting lid is important as it allows for easy rinsing and proper draining during the growth process.
- Broccoli seeds for sprouting (I use these organic broccoli seeds).
Step 2: Place 3 tablespoons of broccoli seed into your sprouting jar, add cool (60°-70°F) water and soak for 12 hours. These three tablespoons will grow into three cups of sprouts! Ensure all seeds are submerged in the water, if needed you can tap them down with a spoon or a finger to prevent them from floating.
Step 3: After the 12 hour soak, drain the soaking water and rinse with cool (60°-70°F) water. Drain the rinse water thoroughly (I shake the jar upside-down over the sink vigorously, then leave the jar in the sink for a little while longer for additional draining. Before I return the jar right-side up, I give it a couple more good shakes). Set the sprouter anywhere out of direct sunlight that is well-ventilated and around 70°F.
Step 4: Repeat the rinse & drain cycle (step 3) every 12 hours for 3-4 days. Growth rates will depend on ambient air temperatures, if air is cooler than 70°F, the sprouts will likely take 4 days to reach maturity. I found it easiest to rinse and drain in the morning and in the evening. Don’t freak out if your cycle goes beyond 12 hours, your sprouts will dry out a bit and growth during that time will slow, but they will likely be just fine.
Step 5: After 3-4 days, rinse, drain, & enjoy! Sprouts are excellent on salads, in sandwiches or wraps, or mixed into assorted cooked vegetables (stir-fries, sautés, curries). Be sure to store finished sprouts in a sealed container in the refrigerator.