Q: Yours Healthy Ideas are forever pushing broccoli, but what about people like me who can’t stand it? Isn’t there anything else just as good for us?
A: As a matter of fact, now there’s something even better.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore made an unexpected discovery — broccoli sprouts grown for three days contain from 10 to 100 times more cancer-fighting compounds than mature broccoli does, ounce for ounce. (The compounds — isothiocyanates — help prevent breast and other cancers in animals and probably humans.)
What’s that mean to broccoli haters — and broccoli lovers too? You get the power of up to 6 1/2 cups of chopped raw broccoli by eating just 1/4 cup of bright green broccoli sprouts. And the taste? Not like broccoli at all! They remind me of radishes — adding a nice zip to salads and sandwiches (proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 1997).
Where to get them: Since the discovery, broccoli sprouts are cropping up in supermarkets across the country. If your store doesn’t have them, ask the store’s produce manager about carrying them. I’ve seen 2-oz packs — clear plastic boxes holding about 2 1/2 cups — selling for $1.99 to $2.99.
To grow your own: Order broccoli sprouting seeds (as opposed to seeds sold for the garden, which may be treated with pesticides) from Johnny’s Selected Seeds at 877-564-6697. Current seed prices — about $18 a pound or $5.75 a quarter pound — should fall as the supply catches up with the skyrocketing demand. One pound has 40 to 48 tablespoons of seeds, and one tablespoon grows 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sprouts. Sprout in a jar (instructions come with the seeds) or order a Bioset sprouter kit for $14.
Is mature broccoli still worth eating? You bet! It has fiber, folate, beta-carotene and vitamin C at levels far higher than sprouts.
Broccoli cooking tip: Jed Fahey knows broccoli inside and out. He’s the manager of the fabulous Brassica Chemoprotection Lab at Johns Hopkins University, where studying broccoli (and other plant foods that can protect us from illness) is the sole mission.
Fahey’s advice for cooking the healthiest broccoli? Use as little water as possible — either microwave or steam. “The cancer-fighting isothiocyanates in broccoli are water-soluble. If you cook in water, they’re gone — unless you’re going to drink the cooking liquid or use it in soup. And how many people really do that?”