Things I’ve learned since I wrote the book

I've always had to give a lot of advice about how to grow broccoli in trays, how to avoid mould, how to water them, how you can't stack them. Well It turns out that they don't like being in trays or jars, what they want to be in, is a nice cool, breathable sprouting bag. Everyone wants to grow broccoli sprouts and now you can - and have a life as well - phew!!!
I use an ecoflax sprouting bag, but you can use unbleached hemp or organic cotton bags as well. They are all naturally breathable
1) Soak 20g (about two dessertspoons full) of broccoli seeds overnight in a bowl of fresh water. I always use filtered water for the initial soaking (the stage where the seeds absorb water). No need to soak them in the bag.
2) Rinse and put seeds into your flax sprouting bag. The seeds will seem tiny compared to the size of the bag, but they will bulk up enormously and they like the space to breathe. Hang your bag somewhere visible. Over the sink is perfect, or even in the bathroom. Ideally it will be somewhere cool, not over a radiator or fire.
3) Twice a day pour run bags under the tap or dip into a bowl of water. If you can't hang them over a sink, hang them over a bowl so they can drip and drain. I use tap water for the regular rinsing. If you want to use filtered or bottled for rinsing, that’s even better. Do not reuse the water.
4) Broccoli sprouts take 4 - 6 days to mature depending on the weather. They are ready when they have a double leaf. The ones at the top of the bag will get greener than the ones deep inside so shake your sprouts up every now and then.
5) Put sprouts in the fridge, they will last for a week. Wash your bag and start again!
Hello everyone, yes, I’m still growing my own HRT, eating mung, red clover, fenugreek, cress or broccoli. Not massive amounts, I have a salad for lunch and a big old smoothie in the evening before dinner. When I can I add wild foods, dandelions and nettles mainly. I make sprouted buckwheat and lentil loaf. I love it all, it makes me feel that I’m looking after myself, it’s my defence against the world, all the nasty chemicals and poisons. I’m almost 58 and everyone tells me that I’m glowing. However a little while ago the flushes came back. I didn’t want to put the amount of sprouts I ate up, and the sweats werent madly hot. “Mmm cold sweats, what could that mean?” I did a bit of research and found that hot sweats are lack of oestrogen and cold sweats are lack of progesterone, although there was no science I could find to back that up so I decided to experiment on myself (again!). So I bought some natural progesterone cream. I didn’t want to go on the synthetic stuff from the doctor as its not extra molecules that are not good for us (see my book for more on this). It only took a week or so for the sweats to go. I thought, oh no, I’ve written a book on grow your own HRT and now I’m getting it out of a bottle. Not sure what to do I just kept rubbing it on my wrist each night and feeling guilty. A short while later I went on a foreign holiday, (this was before lockdown and it was normal!), I couldn’t sprout but I could take my cream. I was strangely delighted when my sweats started up again. Ahh so the sprouts are doing something that the cream can’t do alone -phew I didn’t spend three years writing a book for nothing! So I went back to growing my sprouts, the sweats stopped, but I was still using the cream. I wasn’t sure what to do about my sprouting talks but when a group of women who I’d talked to before invited me back even though they’d heard it all before I decided to be honest. At the end of the talk I sat down, pulled my chair closer to them, my voice was low, I explained what had happened. “But it worked for five years” one of them said. “Yes, “ I replied. “And now it half works and I honestly and truly believe that growing sprouted foods is really good for you in so many ways” I didn’t sell any less supplies that night than usual and I felt an enormous relief about being truthful. So here's what I think. Keep sprouting, if it works for a while, keep doing it. I might mean you need less other stuff, it also helps fight the synthetic hormones that are everywhere, it gives you trace elements of nutrients that you might have to pay expensive pills to get otherwise. Keep on sprouting.

Prostate cancer has just over taken breast cancer as the third biggest killer in the UK. Many older men have prostate cancer and don’t know it because it dormant and they don’t have any symptoms. We need to know what makes the difference. Why is it dormant in some men but killing others?

One of the answers is diet and eating lots of brassica vegetables such as cress, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower.  A 2012 study of 1,560 men who had prostate cancer found that those who ate the highest amount of brassica vegetables had a 59% decreased risk of their prostate cancer progressing, compared to men who ate the lowest. No other vegetable or fruit showed any significance.[1], [2] 

This is because brassica vegetables are full of rich compounds called glucosonolates. Experiments have shown that glucosonolates can actually halt cancer growth as well as helping us excrete cancer causing toxins safely.  Scientists are so exited by this compound that they are trying to make a drug out of it. [3]   Yet simply by sprouting broccoli or cress for a week, you can increase the glucosinolates by 10 – 90%.[4] Experiments on mice show that broccoli sprouts alone delay prostate cancer formation and decrease prostate cancer severity.[5] In humans, a research project using a combination of broccoli sprouts, tumeric and green tea is currently underway after a pilot study into halting prostate cancer growth showed promising results.[6] For the rest of us, why not just grow some yourself. Much of the research (and big money) has gone into broccoli, yet sprouted cress has similar (or more, according to some studies) levels of glucosinolates[7] and it is easier to grow. This is because you grow cress on paper, food grade if possible, so it doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals. Cress also contains calcium and lashings of vitamin C and a plethora of plant hormones.

I know many of you might be thinking plant hormones? Aren’t hormones in the environment dangerous? This is true of the industrial hormone mimics in plastics, pesticides and detergents but they are very different from the gentle, natural hormones found in plants. We evolved alongside plant hormones; they have the same molecular structure as our own hormones. A roundup of 19 different studies concluded that men who eat a lot of plant hormones have a reduced risk of prostate cancer.[8] [9]

Studies also show that eating legumes such as mung and lentil can help reduce prostate cancer risk.[10] The good news is that mung and lentil are very easy to sprout as well, and the process makes them more digestible and nutritious than unsprouted, yet they only take 2 days before you get your first harvest. You can sprinkle them on the top of soups and stews or add them to salads.

With prostate cancer on the rise sprouted foods can be a crucial part of a good cancer preventative strategy for all men. Sprouts such as cress were always part of our culture. Look out for them in your local health food shop. Sadly the “cress salad” sold in many supermarkets today are usually rape seed which are much blander and don’t have the high amounts of glucosinolates, so sprouting them at home is the best option.

Also sprouted foods give you a nutrient dense topper to match many vitamin pills. We evolved on a complex diet of interesting plants and nutrients, sprouting can help bring some of these back and may offer the some solutions to our many modern health problems such as the rise in prostate and other cancers.

[1]  Erin L. Richman, ScD, Peter R. Carroll, et al . Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2012

[2]  Watson G W, Beaver L M, Williams D E, et al. Phytochemicals from cruciferous vegetables, epigenetics, and prostate cancer prevention. AAPS J. 2013

[3] Alumkal JJ, Slottke R, Schwartzman J, et al. Phase II study of sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extracts in men with recurrent prostate cancer. Invest New Drugs. 2015

[4] Fahey JW, Zhang Y, and Talalay P. Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 1997

[5] Laura M. Beaver  Christiane V. Lӧhr  John D. Clarke  et al. Broccoli sprouts delay prostate cancer formation and decrease prostate cancer severity with a concurrent decrease in HDAC3 protein expression in TRAMP mice. Cur Dev Nut 2017

[6] van Die MD, Williams SG, Emery J, et al. A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blinded Randomized Pilot Study of Combination Phytotherapy in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer. Prostate. 2017

[7] McNaughton SA and Marks GC. Development of a food composition database for the estimation of dietary intakes of glucosinolates, the biologically active constituents of cruciferous vegetables. Br J Nutr. 2003

[8] Jinjing He, Shuai Wang,Mi Zhou, Weiwen et al Phytoestrogens and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies Published online,  World J Surg Oncol. 2015

[9] Zhang Q, Feng H, Qluwakemi B et al  Phytoestrogens and risk of prostate cancer: an updated meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017

[10] Song-Yi Park, Suzanne P. Murphy, Lynne R. Wilkens, et al. Legume and isoflavone intake and prostate cancer risk: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. Int J Cancer. 2008 Aug   

I’ve put this guide together so that when you are growing plant hormones on your windowsill and someone suggests that you’re a bit of a crank, you can ask them whether they have studied the molecular structure of different hormones. When they inevitably say no, you can say that you have, and as a result have made a considered decision to grow your own! There are lots of different types of hormones, such as plant hormones, synthetic hormones, chemical and industrially produced hormones. So what’s the difference between them, why are some good and others bad? Well it’s all about the molecules... Ready? Here we go…. First of all, lets look at the hormones our bodies create Here are the three different estrogens, next to them are progesterone and testosterone. the oestrogens Don’t worry that they all look the same, they are meant to. They all have a basic four hexagon shape. This is because they are all made from cholesterol. What makes each one different are those funny letters hanging off them, they represent molecules and atoms. This is why our body can convert some of our hormones into others, because they are just hanging different molecules off the same structure. Some transsexuals taking testosterone have found that their bodies just convert it back to estrogen. Mentally they might want to be a different sex but their bodies are trying to hang on to their natural balance (impressive to us, but very annoying for transsexuals). So what about synthetic hormones? This is our own estrogen again (left) and next to it (right) is Premarin which is synthesised from pregnant mares urine to make traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
molecular structures progesterone

The maker of this diagram has painted all the extra molecules in black.

Now let’s talk about plant estrogens. Here they are:

isoflavones coumestans

These are Isoflavones and Coumestrol (plant estrogen). They are similar but not identical to our own estrogen. In my book, I talk about how plant estrogens attach to our estrogen receptors and offer different doses of hormones depending on whether our bodies have enough estrogen or not. This is a great tool for hormonal balance. Recent research has shown that we also have special plant hormone receptors in our cells, that are just looking for plant hormones. This could be another tool to help us achieve hormonal balance.

isoflavones coumestans

These are Isoflavones and Coumestrol (plant estrogen). They are similar but not identical to our own estrogen. In my book, I talk about how plant estrogens attach to our estrogen receptors and offer different doses of hormones depending on whether our bodies have enough estrogen or not. This is a great tool for hormonal balance. Recent research has shown that we also have special plant hormone receptors in our cells, that are just looking for plant hormones. This could be another tool to help us achieve hormonal balance.

So far, all the hormones look pretty similar, even the synthetic ones.

But what about industrially produced hormones I hear you cry? Here is Polyethoxylate found in household detergents, next to it is a paraben (Methylparaben to be precise) these are hormone mimics found in cosmetics and toiletries.

They’ve got a basic hexagon shape but many extra molecules. Just glancing at that, you can tell you wouldn’t want to inhale too much detergent. Industrial and chemically produced hormones cling to the side of our estrogen receptors, which means other estrogens cannot attach and sometimes they even send out wrong messages. The other problem is that our bodies find it hard to get rid of chemical and industrial estrogens, and they get stored in our fat and have also been found lurking in breast cancer tumours. Having studied lots of texts about different kinds of estrogens I have, for the sake of simplicity, come up with this analogy.

If your hormones were in charge of cleaning your house, the estrogen you create yourself would have a list of things to do. Wash the floor. Cook the Dinner. Change the beds.

It would go about them in an orderly manner and then leave.

If you start taking HRT, even once your house was clean it would still be badgering you, “Come on, let’s clean again, I feel like hovering, what’s that dust over there?” Eventually though it would get fed up and leave too.

Plant estrogens, on the other hand, study the situation carefully. If the house is not yet clean it rolls up it’s sleeves and helps out, but if the house is spic and span already it puts on some soothing music, gets everyone to have a sit down and relax and then when you’re asleep quietly leaves.

Industrial and chemical estrogens would boot the door down, take over the broom cupboard and cleaning equipment, and shout, “Come on! Wash the Dinner. Cook the Beds. Change the Floor. Cuckoo, ding dong. Is that voices I’m hearing? Don’t ask me to leave. I’m going no where baby!”

Do your sprouts a favour, water them with luke warm water. In winter this could be the difference between a good crop or not. In summer go for room temperature water if you can, then they wont get shocked! I realised all this when a local woman contacted me to say she was having trouble growing her HRT, so I offered to go round and see her set-up. She led me into a large Victorian type kitchen, with absolutely no heating. It was so cold I didn’t even take my coat off! There on the windowsill were trays of shrivelled up sprouts. poor little things were freezing. I spend so much time in my book warning of the dangers of sprouted foods getting too hot that I forget that not everyone has central heating! I always tell people that putting sprouts in the fridge stops them growing, so if your kitchen is as cold as a fridge then they won’t grow!