Sprouting seeds are powerhouses of nutrients and here Barbara Cox tells you how to sprout seeds at home, the types, the nutritional benefits, the problems and the best way to eat them.
Let’s Get Sprouting
Packed with a superb balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fat, the seeds of a plant are one of our finest source of nutrition. But there’s something we have to do to them to unlock all of this potential – we have to trigger their growth (germination) into a young plant by soaking them in water for a few days. This process is called sprouting.
What Can We Sprout?
You might be surprised to hear that we can sprout just about any living vegetation, including beans, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and even some grasses such as barley grass or wheat grass. However, the most common foods that people sprout are adzuki beans, mung beans, soya beans, chickpeas, oats, lentils, mustard, radish, quinoa, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. When sprouted, these all make delicious snacks, especially when added to salads with a good dressing.
The Benefits Of Sprouting
In an age when most fruit and vegetables are grown in artificially fertilised soils and treated with all manner of chemicals including hormones, fungicides, insecticides and preservatives, seeds sprouted at home in a jar are a trusty, easily accessible source of organically grown nutrition.
Not only do many sprouted foods taste great, but they are also highly healthpromoting.
For starters, as a seed sprouts, the nutrients within increase their concentration in sheer quantum leaps: proteins by about 20%, nucleic acids by 30%, and many vitamins by a staggering 500%!
At the same time, enzymes dormant in seeds spring into life breaking down starch into simple sugars like fructose and sucrose and splitting proteins into amino acids. It’s also believed that this high enzyme activity stimulates the body’s own enzymes into greater activity. Interestingly, when dormant, chickpeas, lentils and mung beans are filled with enzyme inhibitors which not only make them difficult to digest – even when cooked – but can also interfere with our ability to absorb minerals in the food.
Sprouting And Cancer
Sprouted seeds are believed to have a number of anti-cancer properties:
How Do We Sprout Seeds?
The best way to sprout seeds is to buy a sprouter – a 3-tiered tray system. The process involved is as follows:
The table below is an approximate guide to how long it takes to harvest different seeds.
SEED HARVESTING TIME (DAYS)
Adzuki beans 4-6
Flageolet beans 3-5
Green lentils 3-5
Green peas 3-5
Mung beans 2-5
Pumpkin seeds 4-6
Sunflower seeds 4-6
Problems With Sprouting
Alfalfa – the most commonly sprouted seeds – are, ironically, best avoided as research shows these seeds may inhibit our immune function or heighten the symptoms of lupus or arthritis. The reason is that alfalfa contains an unusual amino acid called canavanine, which can be toxic to humans when eaten in large quantities.
We should eat slowly anyway, but especially when eating sprouted beans, just in case one of the beans hasn’t sprouted and is still rock hard. Hard seeds are nature’s protection system – the only problem is the system is to protect the seeds and not the unsuspecting consumer!
How do they protect the seeds? Well, if weather conditions or a fire happen to wipe out an entire crop of germinating seeds, a hard seed still under the ground will ensure that the species has a chance of surviving.
Rainbow Recipes – Sprouted Salad
It’s always nice to use a mixture of sprouts, as I’ve done in this recipe.
- 50g mangetout
- 50g sprouted chickpea
- and mung bean mix
- 25g mustard sprouts
- Bunch of watercress
- Balsamic vinaigrette dressing: Extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper
Optional: 1 container of marinated tofu pieces (by Cauldron); Balsamic vinaigrette dressing or olive oil
Wash and dry the mangetout, chicory and watercress.
Toss everything in a bowl and mix the balsamic vinaigrette dressing.