Sprouting

March 1, 2008

By johnmac

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With giant piles of snow all around us, it’s hard to believe that the month that kicks off spring is finally here…but it is!

I love spring! I can’t wait to walk through my yard to see how many of my tulip and daffodil bulbs have survived the winter, and hope to discover lots of flower buds on my lilac bushes. I look forward to planting my small vegetable garden. It always amazes me how one tiny little seed grows so quickly to provide a delicious bounty.

Seeds are truly remarkable. They store vital energy and information required to produce a new, complex life-form. When a seed germinates, it is bursting with energy and nutrients – in fact, many sprouted seeds, as well as sprouted grains and legumes, are excellent, nutrient-dense additions to our diet. You have probably eaten some type of sprouted seed, grain, or legume, but did you know that sprouting makes them more nutritionally complete and easier to digest?

The process of soaking and sprouting creates many beneficial changes, including:

an increase in nutrient content, especially of Vitamin C, Bs and carotene
the neutralization of anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors (such as phytic acid) which compromise digestion and the absorption of many important minerals
the breakdown of complex sugars into more easily digested monosaccharides
the partial breakdown of gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins, allowing easier absorption (gluten-containing grains include oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and especially wheat)
the production of enzymes that promote better digestion
Sprouting is not a new concept. Since biblical times, various grains, seeds, and legumes were soaked overnight and then dried in open air until they began to sprout. The sprouted forms were then used to make bread and other grain-based foods which were referred to as ‘the staff of life’.

A variety of sprouts and sprouted grain products (such as breads, cereals, and pastas) are now available at most grocery stores. For those of you interested in doing your own sprouting at home, basic instructions and various tips for successful sprouting are given below. These were provided courtesy of a very kind client who has lots of experience with sprouting grains, seeds, and legumes of all types. Don’t be afraid to experiment in order to get the desired results.

One word of caution: various health books, including Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and Eating Well for Optimum Health, by Andrew Weil, M.D., do not recommend alfalfa sprouts as they contain canavanine – a natural substance which can be toxic to man and animals. In addition, various tests have shown that alfalfa sprouts inhibit the immune system and can contribute to inflammatory arthritis and lupus.

You can add sprouts to salads, soups, sandwiches, stir-fries and more!

Enjoy!

MATERIALS, INSTRUCTIONS AND TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SPROUTING

Materials

30 ounce glass jar (e.g. mason jar)
Fine nylon mesh cut into 4 x 4 inch square
Elastic bands
Dish cloth and/or other non-transparent material to cover jar
Shallow tray
Basic Instructions

Place seeds in mason jar.
Wash seeds by covering with water. Swirl around and drain water out of jar using nylon mesh or other appropriate strainer. Secure a piece of mesh on the mouth of the jar using an elastic band.
Soak seeds in jar. The amount of water used should be approximately 4 to 6 times the amount of seeds. Wrap jar in dishcloth or other non-transparent material and secure with a couple of elastic bands and allow seeds to soak for 6 to 12 hours.
Rinse seeds and thoroughly drain water from jar.
Wrap jar in dishcloth or other non-transparent material and secure with a couple of elastic bands. Place jar on its side in a well ventilated area at room temperature. Avoid exposing the jar to direct light. Shake jar gently to evenly distribute seeds along the side of the jar.
Every morning and evening, rinse and drain seeds. Leave the mesh cover and wrapping on jar and put it back on its side, distributing seeds evenly, out of direct light.
When seeds have fully sprouted, place jar near a window. If leaves have sprouted by evening, store in the fridge overnight and expose to full sun the next morning.
When leaves have turned green, the sprouts are ready to eat! Store sprouts in fridge and rinse every day. Will keep for 7 to 10 days.
Tips

Certain seeds (e.g. very small seeds such as wheat grass and watercress) are best sprouted in a shallow tray. A plastic, cafeteria-style tray works well. Line the tray with a damp dishtowel. Sprinkle seeds on dishtowel and keep it continually moist. Drain tray of excess water and keep covered with slightly moist paper towel and out of direct light during the sprouting stage.
You may have to experiment with the amount of seeds to use. For a 30 ounce mason jar, 4 level tablespoons is a good amount for most smaller seeds; 8 tablespoons is a good amount for larger seeds and legumes (e.g. sunflower, wheat berries, mung beans). If too many seeds are used in the jar method, the sprouts in the middle may not get enough sun exposure to turn green.
Soaking time may vary depending on the seeds. The starchier, denser seeds may take longer (e.g. chick peas require at least 24 hours). These sprouted seeds may also need light steaming/cooking to be more digestible.
Sprouting time will vary depending on the seeds. Most seeds sprout within 5 days.
For a chlorophyll rich sprout, sunlight exposure is required. One afternoon of exposure to sunlight is sufficient. Slow, indirect sunlight is preferred.
It is also beneficial to soak raw nuts and seeds (without sprouting them) to make them more digestible. Place a small amount (the amount you would consume in one or two days) in a glass container and cover with double the water. Let soak overnight (4 – 8 hours), rinse and enjoy as is or in your favourite dishes. Store in refrigerator.

Successful sprouting takes practice – experiment and enjoy!

References

The Maker’s Diet, Jordan S. Rubin N.M.D., Ph.D., Siloam, Lake Mary, FLA, 2004

Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., New Trends Publishing Inc, Washington, DC, 2001

Eating Well For Optimum Health, Andrew Weil, M.D., Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000

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