The dead of winter is the ideal time to add living food to our diets. So what better way to give your body the boost it deserves than with fresh organic sprouts?
The dead of winter is the ideal time to add living food to our diets. Many of us are feeling sluggish and less vibrant. Produce is less than optimum. There are fewer locally grown items, and most imports, including leafy greens, are not as fresh, nutritious, or affordable.
So what better way to give your body the nutritional boost it deserves, than with fresh, organic sprouts?
Sprouting is the journey a seed or legume takes to become a plant. Vegetables are typically harvested days or weeks before they reach our shopping cart, and have lost nutrients while in transit and on the shelf. Sprouts, on the other hand, are possibly the freshest, most alive food you can eat. They are rich in antioxidants, and deliver minerals, proteins, and enzymes in a form easily digested and assimilated by our bodies.
The process of soaking and sprouting also partially breaks down the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the seed, giving us a food that easier to digest and absorb.
Sprouting is inexpensive and easier than you might think. Sprouts can be grown from many types of seeds, legumes, and nuts. They require very little space, and all you need is some simple equipment, water, organic seeds or legumes … and a little bit of patience.
Start with a wide-mouthed glass jar and a mesh screen to cover the mouth of the jar. Mesh screens are available at health food stores; clean pantyhose can also be used. Fill the jar with soaked seed (see chart). Secure the mesh covering with a tight-fitting rubber band, then invert the jar and prop it on a 45-degree angle.
Inexpensive jar sprouting kits can be purchased online or in health food stores. While jars are an economical and accessible sprouting tool, sprouts don’t always grow evenly. Those in the middle can get congested, so it is important not to overfill your jar. Note: sprouts can grow up to 30 times their original size.
Single or multiple sprouting tray systems are available online and at health food stores. Seeds are distributed around the base of a flat tray, which drains into a water-collection tray. Multiple tray systems allow you to efficiently sprout more than one type of seed. Instead of using three glass jars to grow alfalfa sprouts, mung bean sprouts, and radish sprouts, for example, a three-tiered sprouting tray allows you to grow these in one piece of equipment that is fuss free and fairly compact.
Step by step sprouting
- Purchase certified pathogen-free organic seeds. Commercially packaged organic sprouting seeds, including sprout blends, are available from seed companies such as Burpee Seed Co. (burpee.com) and Sprout People (sproutpeople.com.) Consider the germination period as well as flavour and use of the sprout.
- Rinse. Place 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 mL) of seed in a sieve and rinse under running water for one minute.
- Soak. Use at least three times the amount of water to soak seeds, since sprouts will grow substantially, and it’s important not to overcrowd your sprouting medium. Soaking times vary (see chart).
- Skim off all floating seeds and debris. It is this material that has been linked to problems with bacterial growth.
- Drain and rinse again.
- Transfer seeds to a thoroughly cleaned jar or tray (see sidebar). Keep in an area out of direct sunlight—indirect natural light is fine.
- Rinse your seeds twice daily, draining well.
- Harvest sprouts, rinse again, and refrigerate in a loosely covered container or partially opened plastic bag (pat dry to remove any excess moisture).
Sprouting with an eye on safety
- To alleviate concerns about contamination, soak your seeds in a hydrogen peroxide solution. Use 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of 35 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide to roughly 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) of water. Mist your sprouts lightly after each rinse with a fresh hydrogen peroxide and water solution (using the same ratio).
- Always keep your sprouting equipment scrupulously clean. Sanitize jars in boiling water for 10 minutes before using. Scrub trays with vinegar after each use.
- Large beans, including kidney, white, Lima, black, fava, pinto, and Anasazi, should not be sprouted to eat raw. They can be toxic, and must be cooked to be digestible.
- Health Canada recommends that children, the elderly, and those with weakened immunity avoid eating raw sprouts.
Germination times included here are averaged. You may choose to harvest your sprouts either earlier when the sprout tail is small or once it has grown longer.
|Seed type||Flavour||Soaking time (hours)||Germination time||Best eaten raw or cooked||Sprouting notes|
|Alfalfa||Mild and grassy||5-10||4-7 days||Raw|
|Fenugreek||Bitter/pungent (use sparingly or combined with alfalfa)||8-12||4-8 days||Raw|
|Radish||Sharp/hot (use sparingly or combined with alfalfa)||8-12||5-6 days||Raw|
|(red) Clover||Similar to alfalfa but with sharper flavour||4-8||3-6 days||Raw|
|Mustard||Hot (use sparingly or combined with alfalfa)||5-8||4-6 days||Raw||Black mustard seeds are reputedly easier to sprout than other coloured seeds|
|Mung beans||Mild, somewhat starchy||8-14||2-5 days||Cooked thoroughly||Place tray or jar of mung beans in a dark spot for best results.|
|Sunflower seeds||Nutty, sweet||6-10||18-24 hours||Raw||Hulled: After soaking hulled sunflower seeds, skim off skins with your fingers before sprouting. If you don’t remove the skins, the seeds can quickly spoil. Shelled: Shelled sunflower seeds are for sprouting sunflower greens and these are best grown in soil.|
|Lentils||Slightly hot, peppery||10-12||3-5 days||Cooked; raw sparingly|
|Sesame seeds||Slightly sweet when eaten on first day||6-10||1-2 days||Raw||Use sesame seeds in the shell, which are darker than the white, hulled sesame seeds. After sprouting, eat quickly, since they turn bitter after 2 to 2 1/2 days.|
Note: hulled seeds are those that have the shell removed.