Getting Started Sprouting
The practice of sprouting is becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. This ancient practice, some claim, can turn a hard to digest grain, seed, or bean into a food product that your body digests as easy as a vegetable.
What Can Be Sprouted?
You can sprout just about anything that could be considered a seed. You can sprout vegetable seeds like radishes and broccoli or grain seeds like wheat or quinoa. You can sprout beans like chickpeas or lentils. Anything you might be able to put into the ground to grow into a larger plant can be sprouted.
When purchasing vegetable seeds for sprouting be sure that they are marked “sprouting seeds”. Some seeds are sold with a chemical residue that prevents sprouting.
How Sprouting Works
Put simply, sprouts are the first growth of a seed, before they turn into what will someday become the plants we know and love in our gardens. When you keep the seeds moist and warm they begin to sprout and create tiny little plants.
Where once there was a hard to digest seed, after sprouting you have a nourishing plant food. Sprouts are chock full of nourishment including vitamins and minerals, enzymes, and chlorophyll.
Sprouting Equipment: Complex to Simple
You may want to purchase sprouting kits and equipment for making sprouts, or you may want to use two pieces of very basic equipment, one of which you may already own:
A wide mouth canning jar and ring lid plus a sprout screen. A quart jar works well for vegetable sprouts and a half gallon jar works well for grains or beans.
That’s really all you need besides the seeds themselves and the water you will use to soak and rinse them.
Sprouting How-To: Basic Principles for Any Seed
Whether you wish to sprout broccoli seeds for a fresh addition to your sandwich or wheat grains to make healthier bread, the principle of sprouting remains the same.
1. Soak Sprout Seeds Overnight.
Start by rinsing your seeds (vegetable, grain, or bean) in water. Then cover them with at least four times as much water and allow to soak overnight.
2. Drain and Rinse Seeds.
The next morning you are going to dump off the soaking water, rinse with fresh water, and begin the sprouting process. If you are using a jar you will want to invert it at a 45 degree angle over a bowl or other container to allow the water to slowly drain off.
3. Continue Rinsing and Draining.
Two to three times per day you will want to pour water through screen, swirl, drain well, and place back in your bowl. Every day your sprouts will grow a bit more until they have filled your entire vessel.
You will want to allow vegetable seeds to grow until they begin to turn green, at which point they are producing chlorophyll. Grains and beans you may only want to sprout until the tiniest sprout “tail” emerges for best flavor.
4. Store Sprouts.
When you are satisfied with the length of your sprouts you are ready to store them, either in the refrigerator for vegetable or bean sprouts or, in the case of grains, in a dried state if you wish to grind them.
No matter which type of seed you are sprouting you want the storage point to coincide with a dry point in the sprouting process in order to prevent mold. So don’t rinse them and then cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.
To dry grains you can lay them evenly on a lined dehydrator tray and dry at no more than 145°F to preserve enzymes. Or you can simply lay them out on a sheet pan covered with cheese cloth (to prevent bugs) on a warm, dry day. You want the grains to be as dry as they were when you started so they will run easily through a grain mill. You can test them out by simply biting or chopping into one to make sure it is dry and crunchy.
Vegetable sprouts can keep in the refrigerator for around five days, bean sprouts up to a week, and dried grain sprouts indefinitely (though consuming them sooner may enhance their nutrition).
5. Eat Sprouts.
Vegetable sprouts can be used in salads, sandwiches, or on top of soups. Mung bean sprouts can be used in stir fries or added to other Asian-inspired dishes. Other bean sprouts can be cooked just as you would regular beans. Sprouted grains can be ground to make everything from bread to biscuits to pancakes.
Sprouting is actually a lot easier than most people think, and only takes minutes of hands-on time. So if you are interested in the benefits of sprouting don’t be intimidated, start sprouting today!
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