Monday, February 25, 2013

Sprouting seeds tutorial

Sprouting seeds is an easy and affordable way to add nutrients to your diet and multiply your food dollars. 

Sprouts are packed with nutrition. A sprout is an entire plant, in a tiny little package.

 Any seed or bean that can be eaten, can be sprouted. Each sprout has it's own unique flavor. You can purchase special sprouting seed mixtures, buy individual varieties of sprouting seeds, or sprout regular dried beans, raw seeds, and whole grains you have in your pantry or find in the grocery store. 

Seed mixtures can be purchased locally for about $5 a pound. Dried beans and lentils run a little over a dollar a pound. A tablespoon of seeds will produce a bowlful of sprouts. It's hard to find a better value. 

Sprouting is a deceptively simple process that requires very little equipment. I use a jar with a mesh lid, like the one pictured in the above link. The top cost less than $5 at a local health food store and fits on any size wide-mouthed mason jar. There are other methods, but this is the one I'll be detailing in this post.

What not to sprout:

Garden seeds.
Garden seeds are often treated with chemicals to enhance shelf life and improve viability. They are are not a food source, and should never be eaten. 

Cooked, roasted, or refined nuts, grains and seeds. 
Cooking and roasting kills the germ. The seed is no longer viable. The refining process removes the germ, because it will become rancid before the rest of the grain. Oats, pearled barley, split peas, and brown rice that you find in the grocery store will not sprout. Some grains, which are left completely whole, will sprout. If in doubt, look for a germ, or try it and see what happens. Either it will sprout, or it won't. 

Non-food seeds.
If it isn't edible as a plant, it won't be edible as a sprout. Don't eat things that are not food. You wouldn't eat an orange tree or a daisy flower. Don't eat their sprouts either. 

Now, let's get started. 

Put your seeds in the jar. Just use a little. They are going to need lots of room. Fill it with water. Place the mesh lid. Let the seeds soak overnight. Soaking is not necessary, but it does speed the process considerably. 

These guys are about 2-3 days old. Let's pretend that they aren't. They are considerably larger than when I started them already. A tablespoon or 2 is enough to begin with. This is a sample of a mixture I got from a friend. I dumped the whole bunch in there, but I should have split it in 2 batches. 

Good morning! Pour out the soaking water. You will notice your seeds are looking right plump. Rinse with fresh cold water. Hot water will damage the sprouts.

Please ignore my ugly sink and dishes. We live here and we are in the (painfully slow) process of redoing the kitchen. 

Swirl it around. 

Pour it out right through the mesh lid. There is no need to remove the lid at all until you are ready to eat your sprouts. 

Turn your jar on it's side and roll it around a bit to spread the seeds out. The more space and air they get, the bigger and more robust their sprouts will be. 

Wait. Repeat the rinsing process every morning and every evening until your sprouts are ready to eat. I like to let mine green a little bit. You can choose to stop the process sooner if you like. Depending on the type of seed, degree of desired growth, and ambient temperature, your sprouts will need a couple of days to a week to reach optimum sproutiness. 

You can see in this picture that some of the seeds are starting to sprout a tiny bit. In swirling and trying to take pictures at the same time, I broke some  of the sprouts :( They are extremely delicate. Be gentle with them. 

Once your seeds are adequately sprouted, place them (still in the jar if you like) in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. The cold temp will slow or halt the growing process. Eat them promptly. If you wait too long you will have microgreens, and then plants. Even in the fridge, life stops for no man. Or woman. 

Now you have sprouts. Great! What do you do with them? You have some options.

1. Eat them! Sprouts make a yummy snack all by themselves. My kids will down a batch of sprouts in seconds. 

2. Put them in a sandwich or on a salad. They taste great raw, combined with other foods. Radish and mustard sprouts are spicy, dark greens sprouts are tangy, alfalfa and broccoli sprouts have a rich, almost grassy flavor, sunflower sprouts taste creamy. 

3. Stir fry them. Cooking does alter the enzymes in the sprouts, so go easy on the heat. But my absolute FAVORITE sprout dish is Pad Thai. They cook fast, so add them at the end, and don't over cook them. 

4. Cook the heck out of them. Obviously, this isn't ideal, but if you really want to  add them to heavily cooked dish, stew, soup, or whatever, go ahead. They will add nutrients and flavor to any dish.

Wasn't that easy? I was stunned how simple sprouting could be. Now I'm hooked. You will be, too. 

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