Loved by many, hated by some, sprouts are typically regarded by older generations as hippie health food, while trendy chefs and foodies embrace them as the perfect cold weather alternative to lettuce. They rarely stand alone, often served as a compliment to a healthy salad mix or as a delicate garnish on an innovative entrée in a high-end restaurant. While sprouts are an undeniably healthy food with aesthetic appeal, they aren’t a specialty item limited to health food stores and upscale restaurants. It’s easy to grow sprouts from any number of beans, nuts, and seeds in a matter of days, anytime of year, at a fraction of the cost charged by grocery and natural food stores.
Sprouting is a quick way to exponentially increase the nutrient content and digestibility of several different beans, nuts and seeds. Considered by many to be the most nutrient dense food on the planet, sprouts have high levels of B vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, hydrolytic enzymes, digestive enzymes, and phytochemicals. Sprouting significantly increases the content of many vitamins (by as much as 20 times), specifically A, E and C, and facilitates healthy digestion and metabolism and the healing and repair of cells.
Here are some seeds, nuts, beans, grains and rices that can be sprouted and incorporated as healthy additions to soups, salads and main courses:
Any container with a mesh top of some sort that will contain the sprouts and allow water to be drained from it will work well for sprouting. Two options that are ideal are a glass jar with a piece of cheesecloth tied over the rim or a clear plastic sprouter, which can be found in most health food stores (some have a tier system which allows a number of “crops” to be grown simultaneously).
The seeds, nuts, beans or grains will swell and begin germinating after a day or two. Each will have its own ideal sprouting time but generally after three to five days most sprouts will have grown one to two inches and will be suitable for eating.
If they are allowed to continue sprouting, many sprouts will begin to develop green leaves (Sunflower seeds and Mung beans are two sprout varieties that form green leaves).
This will allow the sprouts to be stored and eaten over a longer time period.
Some sprouts, like sunflower, buckwheat, mustard, and wheatgrass can be grown more efficiently in flats of potting soil. To grow sprouts in soil:
Sprouts grown in soil will produce tender greens which will generally be ready in about 7 to 10 days.
Sprout photo by Jane Feldman