My totally head over heels love affair.
It’s such a simple thing.. sprouting.. germinating a seed. Cracking open a life force that has been otherwise locked away for safe keeping. Something so simple, and it’s completely rewarding. Sprouts are full of many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and… well, basically – life! Introducing fresh sprouts into your diet will change every cell in your body. Seriously! Adding a handful of sprouts (even just a very small handful) to your lunch or mid-morning snack will energize you in ways you never would have thought. You don’t need to have a green thumb, you don’t need to have a garden, a yard or even a pot with soil. All you need is a glass jar, some cheesecloth and a couple of days!
Sprout is the name for the primary stage of plant, where the seed breaks open and life (typically in the form of a tail) begins. Sprouted beans, legumes, grains and seeds are eaten in their entirety.
More and more, people are looking to plants and ancient ways of cultivation to feed their hungry bellies, minds, and souls. Not only does eating sprouted grain help heal digestive issues, it helps fight obesity and many other ailments that we are facing. Sprouted grains are much gentler on the body as their enzymes have been released in the soaking process, thrusting each individual grain into a whirlwind of plant-birth. Enzymes help break down (essentially predigest) the protective barriers within the grain/seed as a means to let the life force of the plant out, to let it begin the growth process. This is extremely beneficial to our bodies, because without the release of those enzymes we cannot fully digest all the nutrients the grain has to offer. With our bodies being more able to break down what we are ingesting, we limit the need for excess fillers in our foods, we cut back on inappropriate food related cravings and in turn enter a realm of more optimal health.
Shoot or Microgreen is the name for the next step in the plants development. This is the stage where the “tail” from stage one, after growing a set of tiny leaves will begin to travel upward reaching anywhere from an inch to about four inches before harvested. This is also the stage where the seed will begin to take root.
Shoots/Microgreens are becoming more and more popular not only in health food stores, but in regular supermarkets as well. Pea shoots, alfalfa, and broccoli shoots are the most common in Calgary. Sunflower shoots are becoming more readily available, as well as kits to produce your own microgreens out of herb seeds. Microgreens are a very easy and refreshing way to introduce a little bit more chlorophyll into your diet, especially if you don’t like dark leafy greens. Seeing as they, too, are full of life (in the case of my kitchen – grow on the windowsill for whenever I care to snip off a handful) the amount of energy boosting awesomeness you can achieve with even using them as just a finisher to your salads – it’s amazing. Sprouting and growing little pots of microgreens are a great way to supply yourself with phenomenal, sustainable, and incredibly fresh veg year round. The amount of nutrients you receive directly by snipping some fresh sunflower shoots doesn’t even compare to what you buy in the stores during winter. Think of how far your produce has to travel in order to make it to your table, especially for those living in cold wintery climates like Calgary. Adding fresh greens from your own kitchen will keep you feeling lively all year.
There has been an increasing amount of chatter recently with the sprout/microgreen trend on the rise – a reminder to people everywhere that raw vegetation, just like meat, can carry harmful bacteria. Using organic (and non GMO) seeds, always making sure your jars or sprouting equipment is sterilized, washing your hands before ever touching your seeds or equipment, and properly rinsing your seeds is very important. Make sure the seeds you buy are for sprouting and food type production – seeds that are purchased or used for animals may have been treated differently during process. For example – it’s probably best to not get really excited after learning about phytonutrients and chlorophyll and begin sprouting the sunflower seeds from your bird feeder. Seed that has been in contact (in some cases even if it’s been intended for animals) are more likely to be compromised. Be sure to throw away any sprouts that smell off, or begin to change color. They sprout so quickly and cost so little, it’s always best to start over than to end up with a belly ache.
Below is a list of my favorite easily sproutable grains, seeds, beans and legumes. I can tell you in my experience, clover, alfalfa, and lentil seem to be some of the quickest I have sprouted. For shoots, filling a small pot or trough with organic soil or a softened coconut-husk puck and sprinkling the seeds on top – misting a few times a day with water and keeping them in a sunny (but not direct sun, that will burn your little plant babies) location will get them germinating in a matter of days.
- Garlic Chive
Basic Sprouting – Jar Method
- Ensure all equipment (hands included) have been thoroughly washed
- Discard any seeds that have been broken or are discolored
- Soak seeds in a glass jar of cool water (from anywhere between 6-12 hours depending on the seed)
- Cover the opening of the jar with a sprouting bag, or cheesecloth and fasten so nothing can escape besides water
- Drain all the water out of the jar, leaving it on an angle so excess humidity has a direct escape route
- Rinse and drain the sprouts up to three times daily, always with cool water and storing in a cool place – away from sunlight (typically small seeds and legumes such as clover, alfalfa, broccoli, kale and green lentils will sprout within a day or two)
- Once the seeds have sprouted, allow indirect sunlight for a day or so – this will allow the formation of chlorophyll
- Once they have fully sprouted and produced tiny green leaves (don’t expect legumes or beans to leaf, only tail), rinse them in a large bowl of cool water and keep in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Best to keep them in a container that allows for a bit of airflow, excess humidity can harm your precious baby sprouts.