Spring has Sprouted – Sprouting Seeds Indoors

If you don’t have land for a garden outside (or even if you do) consider indoor sprouting to meet some of your nutritional needs. Sprouting seeds is easy, fun and can be a family activity that provides an excellent (and safe if you are worried about fallout effects), nutritious option. Here a list of the most common sprouts:
  •  Pulses (pea family): alfalfa, fenugreek, mung bean, lentil, pea, chickpea,soybean
  •  Cereals: oat, wheat, maize (corn), rice, barley, rye, kamut and then quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat (these last three are listed as cereal even if they are not, botanically)
  •  Oil seeds: sesame, sunflower, almond, hazelnut, flaxseed
  • Vegetables and herbs: broccoli, carrot, spinach, cabbage, celery, fennel, onion, parsley, radish, turnip, leek, watercress, mustard, arugula, lemon grass, lettuce, clover, mizuna, milk thistle, tatsoi.

The seeds are normally soaked first and depending on the type of seed, this process can take from 20 minutes to 12 hours.  Before soaking, seeds are rinsed to remove soil and dirt and mucilaginous substances produced by some seeds when they come in contact with water. The soaking increases the water content in the seeds and brings them out of dormancy.The moistened seeds are then left at room temperature (between 65-90 F) in a sprouting vessel, such as a simple glass jar with a piece of cheesecloth or screen secured over its rim. Tiered sprouters are commercially available, allowing a number of “crops” to be grown simultaneously. You can even sprout seeds in a mesh bag hung over the sink. By staggering sowings, you can have a constant supply of young sprouts. Any vessel used for sprouting must drain water well because sprouts sitting in water will rot. The seeds will swell and begin germinating within a day or two.

Sprouts are rinsed 2-3 times a day, to remoisten and prevent them from souring. Within 5 days (depending on the seed), they are ready to harvest. However, nuts like almonds can simply be soaked for 8 hours and are sprouted enough to eat once you see the nub of a white rootlet. If left to grow longer (7-10 days) sprouts will develop leaves and some, like sunflower, are preferred that way. The growth process of any sprout can be slowed or halted by refrigerating until needed.

Growing conditions can be altered to produce the desired outcome, for example, mung beans can be sprouted either in light or dark conditions. Those sprouted in the dark will be crisper in texture and whiter, as in the case of commercially available Chinese Bean Sprouts, but these have less nutritional content than those grown in partial sunlight. Growing in full sunlight is not recommended, because it can cause the beans to overheat or dry out. Subjecting the sprouts to pressure, for example, by placing a weight on top of them in their sprouting container, will result in larger, crunchier sprouts.

Another way to sprout beans like lentils or azuki is in colanders. Soak the beans in water for about 8 hours then place in the colander. Wash twice a day. The sprouted beans can be eaten raw or cooked. Common causes for sprouts to become inedible:

  •   Seeds dry out
  •  Seeds are left in standing water
  •  Temperature is too high or too low
  •  Insufficient rinsing
  •  Dirty equipment
  •  Insufficient air flow
  •  Contaminated source of water
  •  Poor rate of germination of seed

It’s easy to sprout and certainly inexpensive for such a valuable food, butthey do need tending! Sprouts are rich in digestible energy, bioavailable Bvitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins and phytochemicals. Since sprouting causes nutritional changes by breaking down complex compounds to simpler ones, it also breaks down undigestible chemicals that protect the seed. In general, sprouting increases the activities of hydrolytic enzymes, making the seed or nut easier to digest.  Up in the herb room we sell the following sprouting seeds: Sandwich Blend, Salad Blend, Alfalfa, Barley, Broccoli, Buckwheat, Chia and Mung Bean – so
give it a try!

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