Why’s and Hows of Sprouting

 

Growing and Using Sprouts

 

Sprouts are a great benefit to good health because it provides vitamins, protein, minerals, live enzymes, and fiber to your diet.  Typical foods set aside for storage are traditionally low or nonexistent in vitamins and minerals.  They contain few calories if any and no cholesterol.   

Varieties of seeds:  Alfalfa, radish, broccoli, adzuki bean, garbanzo, lentil, mung, soy, whole green peas, wheat, rye, kamut, triticale, buckwheat, and spelt are only a few.  Many mixes are also available on the market.   Do not eat tomato or potato sprouts as they are poisonous.

 

Sprouts nutrition: Sprouts are great to eat for everyday living and especially in an emergency situation.  They provide nutrition needed that is lacking in cooked seeds.  Little has been published on nutrition facts of sprouting seeds but what have been researched shows sprouts are a high source of vitamins A, B, B complex, C, D, and E, They also contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus.  Alfalfa sprouts can add up to 35% of your protein to a diet.  Many sprouts are a means of getting fiber in your diet.

How to sprout:  Sprouts are easy to produce and require no special equipment or knowledge.  There are several sprouters offered on the market that are easy to use.  The important thing to remember is that seeds need to be kept moist, warm, and dark.  A simple jar with cheese cloth over the top and fastened with an elastic will work. 

Seed amounts to use per quart jar:

  • 2 Tablespoons: Alfalfa, radish, clover, cabbage.
  • ½ cup seeds: Wheat, All Beans, Rye, Oats, Rice, Sunflower, Lentil, Hulled Buckwheat, and Garbanzo Beans.

Smaller seeds will not expand as much as larger seeds.  Some may soak up to 2-3 times heir dry volume in water.

Seeds need to soak 6-12 hours.   Place seeds in container or jar and cover with water.  Allow enough room to expand 3-4 times original volume.  Do not cover the container.   Drain the water and rinse seed.  Drain again.  You can use a thin cloth, cheese cloth, nylon stocking to fasten around the opening of the jar.  Secure it by using an elastic or bottle ring.  Place in a dark, warm place with the bottle upside down and elevated so excess water can drip out. Of course you need to put something under the bottle to catch the dripping water. Use a lid that permits air to move in and out of the jar. After the seeds have stopped draining, if you are sprouting very small seeds like alfalfa, cabbage or radish seeds, roll the bottle, coating the outer wall of the bottle with seeds. Leave the bottle on its side in the dark. Room temperature is best for growing sprouts, around 70 degrees F. Rinse the seeds twice a day, being sure to drain them well. (Do not neglect to rinse them. They will sour and be useless.)   

Length of time for sprouting:   Large seeds will sprout within two days and will be ready to eat.  Smaller seeds will take 3-5 days.  These bigger seeds such as beans, lentils, and wheat will have a white tail sprouting from the end of the seed.  They will be mild and tender.  Place in refrigerator to keep from maturing too quickly and preserver their flavor.  Smaller seeds such as alfalfa, radish and broccoli should be allowed to grow longer.  If the root becomes to long you may pinch it off before eating. 

For sprouts you are going to cook, let the sprout grow only as long as the seed. For sprouts you will eat raw (except wheat) let them grow up to 2-3 inches. Expose mature alfalfa, wheatgrass, buckwheat or sunflower sprouts to indirect sunlight for 4-5 hours. As they turn dark green their vitamin A content dramatically increases. (This is an important step, for if you don’t, your sprouts will have only about 1 percent of this vitamin’s RDA. Don’t expose bean sprouts to sunlight as this will give them an unpleasant bitter taste.) When your sprouts have grown to the desired length, rinse them again, and then put them in a sealed container with something to absorb the water on the bottom and store them in the refrigerator.

Sprouting adzuki and mung beans under pressure

These beans require a different method for sprouting to ensure large sprouts.  Place soaked beans in a small colander inside another container. Place several layers of burlap over the top of the seeds, and then place a 3-5 pound bag of marbles or small stones on top of this. Water every two or three hours to ensure adequate moisture (this prevents the root systems from over developing in their search for water). Keep them in the dark at all times or they will turn bitter as they begin to green. When they are 2 to 3 inches long, remove them from the colander and refrigerate.

 

Using your sprouts:

After sprouts reach their peak, they will begin to loose some of their flavor and nutrition values.  Different sprouts have different shelf life.  Storing in a refrigerator will help lengthen time.  Sprouts will last 2-6 weeks if kept cool. By growing small amounts at different times you will ensure you always have sprouts ready to use and eat.

Seeds with a fuzzy moldy appearance may only be the tiny root hairs on the stem.  Carefully look at the sprouts before discarding them.  You should not get mold unless you are not rinsing you sprouts twice a day.

Cook sprouted beans using the same recipes you normally use. Sprouted beans cook in 2/3rds the time of unsprouted beans. Heat kills a percentage of the vitamins and enzymes gained by sprouting, so simmer or steam slowly depending on your recipe, and don’t cook longer than necessary.

You can sprout a mixture of seeds to make great green salads all by themselves. You can also use raw sprouts in just about anything:

  • Blended in drinks.
  • Added to bean or lettuce salads.
  • Mixed with already cooked breakfast cereals.
  • Wrapped in tortilla or taco shells and smothered in your favorite sauce.
  • Added to soups and stews just before eating.
  • Sprout filled Won Tons.
  • Put into sandwiches.

Raw sprouts are so versatile that they can also be thrown into just about anything then cooked, such as:

  • Breads and biscuits.
  • Soups.
  • Pancakes.
  • Eggs and omelets.
  • Oatmeal or cracked wheat.
  • Sauces.
  • Mexican or Chinese foods.
  • Potato Patties.
  • Casseroles.
  • Dips.
  • Meatloaf.
  • Any vegetable.
  • Stir fried all by themselves.
  • Even desserts. Really, the sky’s the limit.

 

Helpful hints:

When cooking sprouts, it is better to steam or stir fry them than to boil them and discard the water. You only lose 20-30 percent of the vitamin C compared to 60 percent.  Black beans, pinto beans, soy beans, and other large beans are best cooked before eating.  They are hard to digest when eaten raw. Mung beans are the most popular in Chinese cooking. 

When sprouting grains some of the quickest sprouted are the hulled seeds.  Another name for hulled is groats which simply means that the seed has been hulled.    Buckwheat, barley, and oats are very popular.  Quinoa is the quickest of all sprouts as it only takes 30 minutes to loose its outer shell.  It is used in place of rice in many dishes and has great nutrition. Other grains for sprouting are wheat, rye, amaranth, and kamut.

Storing your sprout seeds:

It is suggested that if you plan to get all your vitamins from sprouts alone, that you store up to 125 lbs of a variety of seeds per year per person. If you have other sources for your vitamins, it is suggested you have 30 lbs of seeds set aside for sprouts to be eaten raw, and 30 lbs of sprouts intended to be cooked per year per person.

Many specialty companies exist that deal exclusively in sprout seed. Sometimes this proves to be more costly.  Before purchasing large amounts of storage seed intended for sprouting, purchase a small amount and test it to see if it sprouts well.

Sprouting seeds of vegetables will store up to 3-5 years if it is stored in a cool (at least 60-65 degrees F) dry place. If you are storing large seeds, it may be packed in containers to keep clear of bugs but do not nitrogen flush as they will not sprout.   Seeds may last up to 10-15 years stored in this way.  It would be helpful to ensure that you seeds are stirred occasionally to introduce oxygen back into them.  As your seeds get old they will take longer to sprout, and you will progressively get more seeds that won’t sprout. The key again is rotate, rotate, rotate.

Use several different kinds of sprouts to find what you like before purchasing a large quantity of seed. Do not purchase seeds intended for anything except human consumption. Many seeds processed by farmers and gardeners for planting have been treated with fungicide and or insecticide agents and are very poisonous. These seeds are usually, but not always dyed red. If in doubt, ask.

Other web sites with good information on sprouts include: 

www.lifesprouts.com

http://chetday.com/sprouts.html

www.sproutpeople.com

 

References: 
Information was taken from Rita Bingham’s book-Natural Meals in Minutes as well as from the website sproutpeople.com and life sprouts.com. 

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