As I write this, we are in the depths of winter. I love winter for the fun snow sports, the hearty meals, cuddling on the couch with the fireplace burning, and we do actually get a lot of sunny days here in my northern town. One thing that is a total downer is the lack fresh, garden food. What is a plant-based girl to do? We get to sproutin’!
Growing your own sprouts is a great way to get fresh greens in the winter months. They are cheap and easy to start, so I am a big fan. When I first started sprouting, I became very childlike and curious. I would watch the sprouts everyday for little changes. The first day I saw the seed opening, I would loose my mind! And to see a little sprout emerge from the opening, it was the most exciting thing that could happen. Let’s be honest here, it still is! Watching these tiny things transform into something completely different, something I can consume and feel the benefits of, is just so amazing.
What is the big deal?
As we all learned in grade school, photosynthesis is the process plants use to convert the sun’s energy into energy they can use to grow and multiply. This is such an amazing phenomenon. Plants are able to take something that we cannot touch or grab and convert it into something that makes them thrive. To me, that is pretty mind boggling. The great news for us is that when we eat plants, we get all of this wonderful, natural energy to help our bodies do what they need to do.
Sprouts fall under the category of superfoods. This refers to a food that is jam-packed with nutrients and energy that are highly usable by our bodies, aka bioavailable. Our bodies have an easy time absorbing all of the protein, vitamins, and minerals that are a part of the specific food. Sprouts are a perfect example of this.
One of the benefits of sprouting is the release of enzymes that help us digest and absorb all the nutrients from them. Before soaking and sprouting, the enzymes in seeds, grains, and legumes are dormant and our bodies must use our own to break up these foods, and valuable energy is used for this.
Sprouts contain phytonutrients which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The protein is broken down into amino acids when sprouted, carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, and fats break down into soluble fatty acids. All of this means that the work is already done for us and the body can save energy for other uses. Hopefully at this point you are convinced of the miracle that is the sprout!
Let us Sprout (Lettuce Sprout!)
After all that, it would be really mean of me to say that sprouts are pretty expensive and hard to find, but I wouldn’t do that. They are super easy and cheap to make at home. There are a lot of pricey gadgets you can purchase to sprout, and they may be awesome, but I have not tried them. My philosophy on many things is to do them as simply and cheaply as possible, and this is no exception.
I use a mason jar with a mesh lid. That is all! The mesh was the only thing I had to go out to buy. I went to a craft store and bought plastic mesh screens, and I actually have no idea what they would normally be used for.
As for the actual things you sprout, they can be seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts. Seeds like alfalfa, broccoli, and radish; grains can be wheat berries, hulled buckwheat, and millet; legumes like lentils (as shown in the photos below), chickpeas, and mung beans; and nuts would be almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts. All of these are just examples. There are many more options out there. The nuts and beans are easy to find at most grocery stores, but the seeds and grains may take a bit more work. I find these at my local natural grocery store in the bulk section. The seeds can be purchased in packages by a company called Mumm’s. You can find these online if you are having a hard time finding them in your area.
Step 1: Soak the seeds, grains, or legumes. Add the amount of seeds, etc you want to a mason jar and fill up with filtered water. The water should be at least an inch above the seeds so they have enough to expand. They are soaked overnight or a period of 8-12 hours.
Step 2: Drain the seeds through the mesh lid you have created. This is done by tracing the centre part of the mason jar lid onto the mesh. Cut out and use in place of the solid piece. You can now place the jar on its side on a plate or stand the jar up and let it sit for about 12 hours.
Step 3: Rinse the seeds/sprouts with filtered water. Add enough water to cover the sprouts and swish it all around in the jar. Flip the jar over and drain. You will leave them for another 12 hours and then repeat this step for a few days, until the sprouts are to a place you are happy with.
Step 4: Rinse one last time and place in fridge. You can leave them in the jar or you can put them in something a little easier to grab out of. I have found that placing a tea towel over the container will keep them from drying out, while at the same time, allow them to breath so they do not get moldy.
Step 5: Enjoy and feel really good about yourself because you just created a superfood!
It looks like mold
There is one thing that I should mention that could happen in the rinsing and sitting phase. For a few years I thought I kept creating moldy sprouts because when I looked closely at the sprouts, I noticed white fuzz all over. After many failed attempts, I finally looked up how to get rid of and/or avoid this mold. Turns out it was sprout hairs, not mold. I had too good of a system for draining the water out of the jar during the sitting times. The sprouts didn’t have enough water to grow and so the white growths were tiny hairs that were in search of moisture. The lesson is that the sitting, growing sprouts need water, so there should always be a little moisture for them.
The sprouts aren’t sprouting
Sometimes the sprouts just won’t work. You can be diligent in rinsing the little guys, but have nothing grow. This is okay, and it happens. This can mean that the products you are trying to sprout are old and no longer have the sprouting capacity. It can also be a case of soaking them for too long. Don’t let this deter you. You can do this.
Time to Eat!
Sprouts can be added to most dishes. It is important to note that all the greatness will be ruined if they are heated, so I recommend putting them on dishes that are not steaming hot, and do not heat them at all. They are amazing on salads, in smoothies, on leftover foods you are not heating up, and on sandwiches or burgers in place of lettuce. You can also put them on cooked food once plated.
Grain sprouts like the wheat berries are used in raw food cooking. They can be used in raw muffin or bread recipes. These are fun to experiment with because it is so different from what we are used to.
I love sprouts. I love making them, and I love eating them! Right now I am putting them on almost everything I eat, and there hasn’t been one thing they haven’t tasted great on. What are your favourite sprout usages? Please leave a comment below. I would also love to see the sprouting set up you have, so please email me with your pictures.