Why grow sprouted seeds? They are delicious, highly nutritious, and always there when you need them. High quality organic salad is not always available, and not everyone has a vegetable patch. Even if you have a garden, to have fresh stuff all through the winter for pennies a serving, is great for everyone, especially families. The special thing about sprouted seeds is that they give you far more vitamins and minerals than you would get from taking the unsprouted seeds and cooking them.
When they germinate, they marshall all their nutrients and multiply them in preparation for growing the plant. This is the point at which we eat them, when all the nutrients are still concentrated in the young shoots. The other benefit is that at the same time, the seed multiplies its plant enzymes, to give itself growing power. Because we eat the sprouts raw the enzymes are not destroyed by heat, which happens when food is cooked. These enzymes help to digest the sprouts, and anything else we might be eating, so take some of the work out of digesting our food. This is especially helpful for people with weak digestion.
Growing delicious, fresh, food in minutes a day in your own kitchen is easy.
For vitamin and mineral-packed crunchy salads and snacks for all the family, you will need:
Some sprouting quality seeds.
Three or four jars to grow them in. You can buy special sprouting jars with screw top mesh lids, or use glass pickle jars, or plastic sweetie jars if you want to grow lots.
Mesh squares and elastic bands for the top of the jars
A washing up bowl or planting trough to stand the jars in and to let the seeds drain.
Choose organic seeds for preference. You can find them in whole food shops, or by mail order from the Fresh Network.
Try these for a start:
aduki beans (the little red ones) for their sweet flavour and soft texture.
green mung beans (equally soft and sweet, traditionally allowed to grow long shoots to make chinese bean sprouts).
chick peas, to eat as crunchy sprouts or to make into tasty raw hummous.
lentils, the large brownish green ones, for another crunchy, savoury addition to your salad.
alfalfa, for its chlorophyll-rich green leaves.
sunflower seeds for a crunchy protein snack.
How to grow them
Rinse away any dust or broken seeds, then soak them in filtered or bottled water in preference to tap water. The small seeds, alfalfa, mung and aduki, will need only three or four hours soaking. The larger seeds, lentils, sunflower and chick peas, will need about eight hours.
After their initial soak, secure a piece of garden mesh, muslin or curtain netting, even old tights, with elastic bands to the top of the jar.
Drain the jar by tipping it up gently, and when most of the water has run out through the mesh, place the jar downwards at an angle in a plant trough or washing up bowl so the sprouts can continue to drain, and also to let air in to the jar.
Keep them away from direct sun or too much heat. They do not need to be put in the dark, but cover them with a teatowel if your room is very light and bright.
Rinse them thoroughly twice a day, to keep them fresh. Stand each jar under the cold tap and let water stream into the jar until it overflows, taking with it the waste products from the growing seeds. Drain and leave to stand again as above.
Rinse the sprouts for a few days until the tiny emerging shoots are as long as the sprout itself. This is the perfect time to eat them. They are now full of vitamins and minerals, also the plant enzymes which help with digestion. They are best used at once or you can put them in the fridge for a day or so until you need them.
Special care for alfalfa sprouts. These are rinsed, like the others, until the tiny brown seed coats separate from the curly white shoots and newly formed leaves. At this stage they need a wash, as distinct from a rinse. Tip them into a bowl and gently swish the sprouts free from most of the seed coats. Use a large sieve or colander to separate them, and discard the brown coats. Put the washed sprouts back into their jar, and drain, but this time place them in direct light, so that the leaves can form chlorophyll. They will not need further rinsing. In two or three days the leaves will be a strong dark green and they are ready to eat.
What to do with them
Put them in your salad, they really fill out a bowl of green leaves.
Scatter them over a stir fry, just before serving.
Add them to a smoothie, for an extra vitamin boost.
Make the sunflower sprouts into a protein rich salad dressing.
Recipe for sunflower seed sauce: put the sprouted sunflower seeds into a blender with double the volume of good quality water. Blend until smooth and serve at once. This will keep in the fridge for a day or two.
Avoid over soaking your seeds.
Rinse them regularly. Make sure they drain thoroughly, or they could start to rot. Regular care will give you fresh tasting sprouts full of minerals and vitamins.
Chew them thoroughly, to get the most out of them.
First published in “get fresh!” magazine summer 2005
Elaine teaches the original Living Foods Programme (enzyme-packed and chlorophyll-rich raw plant foods for long term health and vitality). For details contact :
The UK Centre for Living Foods