Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sprouts: Little Leafy Buds of Super Nutrition

Spoiler: There are links for recipes below. One is for a fabulous vegetarian sandwich and the other my faux pho soup.

Yes, this post really is about gardening! Gardening doesn't always involve the great outdoors. I'll be posting about my indoor gardening experiences with LED lights in the future. And gardening doesn't always involve dirt...

My sprouting cup
I sprouted seeds for the first time about 5 years ago. As I was researching nutrition for my African Grey parrots, information on the high nutritional benefits of consuming sprouts, such as this, kept coming up:

"Research shows that sprouts are a veritable fountain of youth. Sprouts abound with antioxidants, they are full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Broccoli sprouts have been found to contain 50 times as much of the antioxidant sulfurophane as mature broccoli. Wheat Grass juice is the closest substance to hemoglobin, and is therefore a phenomenal blood purifier and liver de-toxifier. Sprouts contain enzymes, giving your body a much needed rest as they digest themselves - invigorating you while requiring no help from your body to process them. New research indicates that peanut sprouts reduce harmful cholesterol and that sunflower, buckwheat and grain sprouts dramatically improve the quality of life for diabetics. The list goes on and on." Quote courtesy of http://sproutpeople.org/

I'd been buying sprouts at the grocery store for better than than 20 years thanks to a fabulous sandwich recipe I've been enjoying, but it never occurred to me that I could grow my own. I bought a sprouting cup, sprouted some wheat berries, and offered them to my parrots. They wouldn't touch them. So I nibbled on the sprouts myself and put the cup away for a few years. Then came our first winter with chickens on board. I wanted to provide them with some sort of nutritious greens since there was nothing left out back for them to forage.

I started with wheat berries, since I already knew they loved wheatgrass. It was an instant hit! Next I tried mung beans, the beans that make the Chinese bean sprouts you buy at the store. They loved them too--and so did I! I realized that I could sprout mung beans for my own home cooked Asian dishes and not have to settle for pale, lifeless and often slimy sprouts sold at grocery stores. We love sunflower seeds in our salads, and I thought sprouted sunflower seeds would be even better. I buy shelled raw sunflower seeds for my homemade bird food mixes and thought they wouldn't sprout as they were shelled and possibly damaged. Not so! They sprouted beautifully and we had another winner!

Just today I decided that I needed to have more than one sprouting container going at once, so I could have continuous sprouts available. I ordered two more sprouting cups, the Easy Sprout Sprouter, from Amazon.com, plus some broccoli seeds because I've heard so many amazing things about them, such as this article Broccoli Sprouts Fight Cancer by Dr. Mercola.

Dried mung beans
So... what's involved? I've been buying wheat berries and mung beans in the bulk foods aisle at Wholefoods. I've seen some health food stores selling small packets of these items for outrageously high prices and am constantly amazed that people buy them. You can buy wheat berries, mung beans, raw shelled sunflower seeds, etc. in the bulk aisles of many health food stores for just about nothing. Look there first!

You need something to sprout your seeds/beans in. I chose the sprouting cup because at the time it was all I could find. After viewing what Amazon has to offer, there are many, many more options out there today. But for this post, I'll stick to what I know. The white food grade plastic sprouting cup holds about 4 cups of content. There's an outer cup and an inner one that has drainage holes in the bottom. It comes with an extra bottom with smaller drain holes that fits in the inner cup (in case you're sprouting really small seeds), a dome and two flat covers -- one solid, one with breathing holes. Oh, and a guide that gives a LOT of specific information on how to use the cup.

These are 2-3 days along
I'll use mung beans here for my example. On day 1, I put about 1/3 cup of mung beans into the coupled cups and add some filtered water (twice as deep as the beans), add a lid and let them soak over night in a cool, dark place (my kitchen counter works fine).

Next morning, I lift the inner cup out of the outer cup, dump the greenish water, and rinse the beans well with fresh filtered water. Later in the day I rinse again. By this point they're already soft and starting to sprout! You can munch on them at any time, but with the mung beans you may also want to keep them growing until they're a couple of inches long so you can use them in recipes, such as my Faux Pho. I rinse and drain 1-2 times every day until the beans are being eaten because it's so dry here in Colorado.

Fresh sprouts
Keep a close eye on the freshness of your sprouts -- you don't want them to get moldy and smelly. Keeping them rinsed and drained, and at a reasonable temperature, keeps them fresh and healthy. Once they grow to the size you want, you'll want to put them in the fridge so they don't get moldy.

I'll update this post with my broccoli sprout experience some time in the future. For extensive information on sprouting, and to purchase just about anything related to sprouting, visit this web site  http://sproutpeople.org/. They know EVERYTHING about sprouts!

No comments :

Post a Comment