Fresh sprouts bring nutrients, life force, and variety to your meals. You can easily and inexpensively sprout a surprising variety of seeds and grains in your own kitchen using simple methods. This article explores the nutritional benefits of sprouts, the types of sprouts you can grow, and their culinary uses, as well as easy methods for growing them continue reading.
Sprouts are a living food; they contain maximum life force (or chi), since they continue growing until the moment we ingest them. In addition, the sprouting process releases and breaks down the seeds’ nutrients, making them easier to digest and absorb. Raw sprouts also provide active enzymes, which are important for vibrant health.
You can sprout several types of grains and seeds. Sproutable grains include staples like barley, rye, oats, wheat berries, and brown rice, as well as popular alternative grains such as buckwheat, kamut, spelt, amaranth, millet, quinoa, teff, and triticale.
Sproutable seeds include vegetables like beans, green peas, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, corn, kale, mustard, onion, chives, garlic, radish, pumpkin, and watercress, as well as herbs and grasses like anise, alfalfa, chia, clover, and fenugreek, and seeds such as sesame and sunflower. Do not eat potato or tomato sprouts, as they are poisonous.
Sprouts have a variety of culinary uses. Vegetable sprouts can lend distinctive flavor to salads. Raw-food enthusiasts can mix sprouted grains with other ingredients and dehydrate them to make raw breads, crackers and cereals. Sprouted wheat berries can even be grown into wheatgrass and juiced into a nutrient-packed superfood. Consult a good raw-food cookbook for more details and many creative possibilities.
Sprouting in Containers
Choose organic, non-chemically-treated seeds for sprouting. Soak the seeds in a wide-mouthed glass or ceramic jar or other container (do not use metal, wood, or plastic) full of room-temperature or cold filtered water. The volume of water should equal at least two to three times the volume of the seeds. As a general rule, soak small seeds for four to six hours, and larger seeds for eight to twelve hours.
Small seeds should just cover the bottom of the container; bigger seeds should fill just one-eighth of the container. You can purchase mesh sprouting lids or cheesecloth to fit over mason jars, or if you use a lidless bucket or bowl, place a colander upside-down over the top.
After soaking the seeds, turn the container upside-down and drain out the water. Rotate the jar to distribute the seeds evenly on the sides of the glass. Place the upside-down jar (tilted slightly to allow air circulation inside), or the colander full of seeds, in a location where the temperature will remain about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, overnight. Keep the seeds moist, but avoid excess moisture, which sours the sprouts and encourages mold growth.
Rinse and drain the seeds two to four times a day, then return them to their previous location. Repeat until the seed “tails” grow to about one-and-a-half times the length of the original seed, which takes about three days. To increase their nutrient content, place the sprouts in indirect sunlight (a process called “greening”) for at least six hours before harvesting. Omit this step for bean sprouts, since exposure to sunlight makes them bitter.
To harvest the sprouts, soak them in cool water until the hulls rise to the top, then discard the hulls, drain and rinse. Eat the sprouts immediately, or store them in the refrigerator. If you rinse and drain them every three days, sprouts will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
Sprouting in Soil
Grains, grasses and larger seeds can also be sprouted in soil. After soaking, spread the seeds out on a flat tray of high-quality light, airy soil. Keep the soil moist, covering the tray with plastic at first, or spraying the seeds with water twice a day. Once the sprouts are two inches high, expose them to at least three hours of sunlight a day. When the sprouts have grown eight inches high, harvest them with scissors, cutting as close as possible to the soil surface.
Sprouting in Paper Towels
You can also sprout very small seeds on unbleached, undyed paper towels. After soaking, place two moistened paper towels in a glass pan, then sprinkle the seeds evenly over the towels, and cover them with two more moistened paper towels. When the seeds are fully sprouted, remove the top-most towels to green the seeds a few hours before harvesting.