Sprouting for Health, Energy and the Environment!

Recently I published a recipe for Warming Stir-Fry with Avocado, Alfalfa and Sprouted Beans and was asked where to obtain the beansprouts. Well, the answer is, your kitchen counter!

It so easy to grow your own, takes no time or effort and they provide protein and oodles of more useable nutrients than cooked  foods. Enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fibre and essential fatty acids (that burn fat and are usually in short supply in most diets) increase dramatically during the soaking and sprouting process and are more easily absorbed by the body.

Not only are homegrown sprouts good for body and soul (growing your own is a satisfying and life-affirming activity), but they are also good for the environment. Buy organic, untreated seeds, nuts, beans or legumes and you omit nasties: pesticides, additives and other unwanted chemicals. Ready grown sprouts are often treated with chemicals before packaging.

They are inexpensive, 1 tablespoon of seeds produces several days’ worth of sprouts – depending on how often and how many people eat them! You can rotate the varieties and have your own little sprout garden in your kitchen, producing nutrient-dense plants for your salads, sandwiches and lunch-boxes and the children will enjoy the process of soaking, watering and watching them grow as well as benefiting from the foods themselves.

So, what do you need and how do you do it?

There are 3 methods: the third actually produces microgreens, a stage further on than sprouting and involves soaking seeds and sprinkling them on a tray of organic soil, watering and letting them grow. But we want to produce sprouts, so you need either a sprouting tower like this one:

This thirty-year-old tower has 3 sprouting trays, a lid that is ventilated to allow air to circulate and a bottom tray where the water drains off – if buying new, check it is BPA-free

or large, wide-mouth mason jars with either sprouting lids (available from healthfood stores or online), cheesecloth or muslin and a rubber band to keep it in place.

You can sprout most seeds, nuts, beans or legumes – except kidney beans, they are poisonous if eaten raw.

For either method, the first thing you need to do is wash your hands – hygiene is important, then rinse the seeds and pick out any grit or discoloured or broken ones and soak them overnight in pure water. For 3 trays, you could use 1-2 teaspoons of alfalfa or broccoli seeds between 2 of them and 1-2 tablespoons of mung beans in the third. Use 3 times as much water as seeds. (Broccoli seeds provide many times more nutrients than normal broccoli).

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(If using jars, you can put them straight into the containers). Next morning, drain them into the trays and rinse again (one type of seed per tray, they all grow at different rates).

Rinse and drain twice a day, pouring away the excess water.

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After Day 1, the mung beans have swollen and are beginning to sprout.

For the jars, cover and stand upside down, if possible at a slight angle, and rinse at least twice a day.

The sprouts will grow faster in warmer weather and in exceptionally hot weather may need an extra rinse. Don’t let them dry out but don’t overwater! Be sure to drain off the excess to prevent mould and bacteria developing.

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After 2 days, they are well on their way. These were growing during a very cold February.

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3 days and the mung beans are about an inch long and ready to use! The alfalfa needs another couple of days.

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When you harvest the mung beans, rinse and either store them as they are, covered in the fridge – they will last up to a week or more – or place in a bowl of water, swish them around and the green hulls will float off and can be removed if desired. Some people think they are a little bitter, but of course you will be discarding nutrients too.

They can be used in salads, sandwiches, with stir-fries or as garnish for warm soups (the less heat the more nutrients you retain).

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Sprouted seeds, beans, nuts and legumes are highly nutritious and are particularly rich in Vitamins A, B Complex, C and E, but alflafa is also a good source of Calcium, and a very good source of Vitamin K, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.

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Broccoli Sprouts

You can have a lot of fun with the kids using alfalfa sprouts:

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There have been comments in the media about the dangers of ecoli in beansprouts. Firstly, I would say commercial enterprises don’t much like us growing our own rather than buying their nutrient-poor, mass-produced products and secondly, providing you keep up your hygiene standards: wash your hands, drain off the soaking water and scrub out the trays/jars, then all should be fine.

We have been growing sprouts for 30 years and neither my family nor friends have had one problem with ecoli!

I hope this helps inspire you to start producing your first beansprouts.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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