sprout with it

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2008-11-07 10:12

It's not common knowledge yet, but the sprouts do, well, um, grow their own sprouts. We've also (occasionally) been known to wear tie-dye, but don't knit our own clothes yet. I guess calling ourselves urban sprout would have alluded to this, but no doubt it will shock some distant relatives: yes we grow and love sprouts. I think this is our first post about sprouts and when you think about it, it's quite strange that it took us so long to broach the topic.

Sprouting is the easiest form of "growing your own" that you can do and incurs the lowest number of "food miles" to get your food from where it's grown to your plate. We're talking food centimetres here. Also anyone without green fingers can easily make a success of growing sprouts in the kitchen.

Sprouting Equipment
Equipment needn't cost a fortune. You can start with an old glass jar (around 500ml or greater), a piece of muslin or cheese cloth (or nylon mesh) and an elastic band. Or you can go to the other end of the scale and buy an automated self watering sprouter (probably overkill for home use!)

After getting fair mileage out of our little plastic Italian sprouter, acquired a few years ago, and looking slightly worse for wear, we recently upgraded to a Kitchen Garden six bottle sprout system. I originally opted for the nine bottle system but was dissuaded by Joseph Feigelson, proprietor of Kitchen Garden, who is the inventor of the easy to use home sprouting system. He wanted to know if I had a large family, or whether I was a vegetarian, these being two possible reasons for owning the larger version. Joseph seems to live only on sprouts, judging by the number of industrial size sprouters installed in his kitchen. When I met him he was enthusing about his sprout salad (the largest number of sprouts assembled in one salad, I've ever seen) and high on his being awarded the Eat In Innovation Award for his Kitchen Garden sprout kit.

The ingenuity of his system is in its simplicity. Sprouting in bottles before Kitchen Garden was a messy affair. The main problem being where to drain them so that they still have good airflow. Invariably you'd use your drying up rack and bottles would be falling over or having to be moved around when you washed your dishes. Kitchen garden solves the problem by providing an elegant, compact stainless steel stand for your sprout bottles to fit into, and a tray over which to drain.

There are also plastic stackable sprouters available, and we still use ours, although the clear polycarbonate plastic does get stained after frequent use. They are convenient in that they take up the least amount of space. The one we've used has been perfect, although I've heard that airflow can be an issue with some models.

Sprout bags are another option, some made from hemp material, which are available at health stores and at Wellness Warehouse. We've not had any experience with them, but a lot depends on the material used. Hemp fibre contains natural hemp oil and this makes the bag longer lasting (as long as you don't wash it with detergent).

Joseph also recommended a small natural clay sprouter for very fine seeds. Not sure where these are available.

What to sprout
You can sprout a large number of seeds and pulses (peas / beans / lentils). One to shy away from is the Kidney Bean however, which contains a natural but toxic haemaglutin which is only destroyed when cooking. Soya beans are controversial, as it has trypsin inhibitor which prevents the absorption of the amino acid, methionine. Some say this is overcome by the enzymes released when sprouting. I'd avoid soya beans anyway as there is a strong likelihood of them being genetically modified. See our post about soya products in SA testing positive for GM contamination, even in some certified organic soya products.

I am a fan of sprouted chickpeas, mung beans, brown lentils, black eyed beans (cow peas) and regular dried peas. These have become a staple in our house. Organic seeds are recommended and even though you'll pay a bit more its still a very cost effective way to access good nutrition (preferable to buying supplement pill's in my opinion). It's important only to use seeds that are meant for human consumption. Commercially packaged seed for growing in your garden is not going to cut it. Often these seeds are treated with chemical antifungal agents.

We do other sprouts less frequently and mainly to add some interest and diversity to the diet: wild peas, brocolli, alfalfa, adzuki, fenugreek, pumpkin, wheat, sunflower. Tastes vary from mild to spicy. There are plenty more ideas here

How to sprout
It's very simple. We start our sprout cycle in the evening. We put two or three handfuls of the seeds or pulses we want to sprout into each jar, fill the jar with water, cover with the mesh lid, held in place by an elastic band, and leave overnight. In the morning drain the jars (into a tub, we reuse the water on the garden), rinse the sprouts by refilling half the jar with water, shake and drain again. I do this until the water we fill the jar with no longer takes on the pigment from the seed i.e. the water is clear. In practice this means rinsing one to three times. Mung beans for example have a lot of green pigment in their seed coat, so you'll have to rinse a few times.

Then I'll rinse the sprouts each morning and each evening. If the weather is really hot, or the sprouts are in a draught then you may need to rinse them at lunch time too. The sprouts should not be allowed to dry out. The sprout stand should be positioned out of direct sunlight!

Once the sprout shoot/root emerges then they're good to eat. Can be in as little as one and a half days. Eat them before they grow too big before they become bitter. We'll repeat the cycle every two to three days.

The benefits of sprouting
Sprouts are rich in vitamins (A, B, C, E, K), minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc + more trace elements), proteins, sugars, amino acids, phytochemicals and plant enzymes. As soon as the sprout seed soaks up water its metabolic activity increases and complex biochemical changes in the seed start to occur. Protein, starch and lipids are broken down into simple compounds that are used as the building blocks of new compounds. Sprouts are a living food and have been claimed to be the "most enzyme-rich food on the planet". Estimates suggest there can be up to 100 times more enzymes in sprouts than in fruit and vegetables, depending on the particular type of enzyme and the variety of seed being sprouted.

Sprouts are easy to digest, so the body does not need to expend much energy to access the nutrients. Sprouts are high in fibre, low in calories but nutrient dense so they give you that full feeling.

What to do with sprouts
We mainly eat them as part of salads and add them to our breakfast muesili (not the spicy sprouts). They can also be added to soups, omelettes, green juices, smoothies. Preferable to have them raw.

Check out these resources for plenty more about sprouts

Sprout people
Kitchen Garden
Nature's Choice
Nutrition by Natalie

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