On Sept. 16, 1997, the New York Times published and article titled “Researchers Find a Concentrated Anticancer Substance in Broccoli Sprouts”.
From the article: “Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore have found that broccoli sprouts, grown in plastic laboratory dishes from ordinary broccoli seeds, contain anywhere from 30 to 50 times the concentration of protective chemicals found in mature broccoli plants. These chemicals, called isothiocyanates, were already known to be potent stimulators of natural detoxifying enzymes in the body, and are thought to help explain why the consumption of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and kale is associated with a lowered risk of contracting cancer.”
Since then more and more research into broccoli sprouts has uncovered an ever expanding list of potential health benefits. People from all walks of life, from athletes to people with illnesses to people that just want to improve their general health, are starting to grow their own broccoli sprouts.
Growing sprouts really couldn’t be more simple. There are 4 basics but crucial requirements to grow sprouts.
- Good quality seed - ideally organic and specifically for sprouting
- A vessel to hold and grow your sprouts in - we recommend a glass jar with a metal sprouting lid.
1. Sprouting Seed
Sprouting seed is different from seed you buy in garden centers used to grow mature vegetables for several reasons. The most important factor is the hygiene standards that must be upheld if you are to call your seed “sprouting seed”. As sprouts are eaten raw, there is an increased chance of promoting growth of harmful bacteria if you use seed that hasn’t been carefully tested to ensure there is no contamination present.
Sprouting seed is also fresher than your average seed. Our seeds for example need to meet a germination rate of at least 85% otherwise we won’t sell them.
2. A Sprouting Vessel
This doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple jar with a piece of cloth over the mouth affixed with a rubber band will do the job. You can even sprout on a plate with a piece of kitchen paper if you want!
We use and rely on a good quality, dishwasher safe glass jar paired with a special sprouting lid. You can get loads of different types of lids but we have found a mesh metal lid with a stand to be the most reliable solution. Hygiene is really important when it comes to sprouting so being able to just pop your equipment into a dishwasher or pot of boiling water makes life a lot easier! Check out our sprouting equipment and see if there is something for you!
Water is probably the most important element when it comes to sprouting. Without water nothing happens! Until you soak seeds, they are in a state of dormancy. Once soaked, water seeps into the core of the seed allow food to be dissolved and transported. The seed hull is softened allowing the seedling to start emerging.
Water is also used to rinse the sprouts as they grow, keeping them fresh.
Like all living things, sprouts need to “breathe” once they start to grow. Oxygen is required for a process called aerobic respiration, a series of reactions that allows the embryo of the seed to extract energy from it’s food stores.
You need to strike a good balance of water and oxygen when sprouting. Too much water and the seeds drown and can’t perform their functions effectively. Too much oxygen and the sprouts dry out.
So how do you grow broccoli sprouts?
This brings us to the process of sprouting. There are 5 simple steps and I’ll guide you through the jar sprouting method we use.
First we need to soak our seeds to activate them. Place your seeds in your container and cover with plenty of water. Bigger seeds like peas or beans will absorb more water and swell when compared to smaller seeds. Soak broccoli seeds for anywhere from 6 - 12 hours.
After soaking, drain your seeds and give them a rinse. Fill the jar with water and swirl it around ensuring every seed has had a good wash. Do this two or three times.
We will then rinse our seeds at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. You can rinse them more often if you wish but not less.
As mentioned before, we need to find balance between giving our sprouts enough water and oxygen. We want our seeds to have a fine coating of water but not enough to prevent oxygen reaching the seed. After rinsing, drain the water out and while grasping your jar firmly, gently shake any excess water out of the jar.
Don't go too crazy and launch your jar across the room (I’m speaking from personal experience here) but just enough to ensure there are no pools of water in the jar.
For the first 2 or 3 days, you need to be vigilant that the seeds don’t all clump together and suffocate each other. A good way to achieve this is by rotating the jar carefully, encouraging the seeds to stick to the walls of the jar. This will help give them all room to breathe and grow. Place the jar upside down on it’s stand, ensuring that the mouth of the jar is unobstructed so air can get in but water can also get out.
Repeat steps 2 - 4 twice a day at least. You will find as the sprouts develop they will not want to stick to the wall of the jar as easily. This is fine, just try to create a nice loose and airy environment inside the jar for your sprouts to thrive. Your sprouts are ready as soon as they have grown a little tail. We like to let ours grow a little longer for a larger crop but it is really a matter of preference.
That’s really it in a nutshell. Experiment and enjoy the process. You can always reach out to us here at Nufields for any questions you may have - there is no question too big or small!
If you’re ready to give it a go check out our range of certified organic sprouting kits.