Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sprouts: king of them all

I've been meaning to write about sprouts for a while, but the simple truth is there's a lot of information and I just can't find a way to make talking about food quite as amusing as Amy can. Sprouts just aren't really that funny. So, this will be a serious discussion of sprouts.

Why sprout? Plants are most nutritous when they are only a few days old- when they're sprouts. Seeds and beans even pre-sprouting are a really great idea, as we know, and sprouting them increases several-fold the amount of nutrients in those foods. As the seed/bean germinates the vitamin C content increase 3-5 times and the calorie count lowers as the seed uses energy to grow. In the book Super Baby Food (from which I am deriving much of my sprouting information) she makes a good case for sprouting as, "one way you can have crisp, fresh vegetables at their prime. A method of indoor organic gardening." It is actually pretty hard to find good numbers on sprout nutrition, but just trust me here. Sprouting is a good idea.

What to sprout? wheat, almonds, any kind of beans, lentils, millet, seeds-even seeds used as spices such as mustard seed. The seeds should be raw, unsalted and fresh. They cannot be treated with anything (such as fungacide) or they won't sprout. Do not use seeds intended for garden use.

How to sprout? The basic idea is to keep the seeds moist (but not wet) and in a dark place. There are many different methods of sprouting, none of which are really that hard. How I do it:
I usually do beans.
Use about 1/3 a cup (the beans will grow, so don't use too many) and rinse them.
Place the beans in a glass jar (I used my washed out spaghetti sauce jars) and cover will cold water three times the volume of beans.
Let the beans soak uncovered and unrefridgerated for 6-12 hours.
Drain the beans (I just hold a saucer over the top and turn the jar over. Some people put netting across the top of a canning jar). I reserve the vitamin-filled soaking water to pour on my plants.
Rinse the beans well by adding new water and gently swirling around. Pour out the water and rinse again.
Drain well.
Lay the jar on its side so the seeds are spread out. The seeds will stay in the jar (in a dark place, or covered by a dark cloth) until it is time to rinse again.
Rinse 2 to 3 times a day, no more than 12 hours between rinse.
The beans are done sprouting when the sprout is about as long as the bean(anywhere from 2-5 days, depending on what you are sprouting). It's best not to allow the sprouts to grow longer than that. When the sprout reaches optimal length, rinse and store in the fridge.

For sprouts that grow green leaves (such as alfalfa, radish, kale) when the green leaves start to grow place the sprouts near a window with indirect sunlight to increase Vitamin A and chlorophyll production.

A few more tips: sunflower seeds are supposed to be the easiest, so it might be good to start with those. Bean sprouts should always be cooked before eating, this kills some harmful enzymes present in the sprouts. Seed sprouts can (and should) be eaten raw as much as possible.

I will post some sprout-containg recipes once I find some good ones. My girls like to snack on raw sprouts (radish and sunflower are their favorites) and bean sprouts go well in chili.