Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Are you eating your SPROUTS?

Germinated edible seeds are called sprouts. They are literally explosions of life that can supply you with greens year-round. Would you believe that, pound for pound, sprouts have the largest amount of nutrients of any food?
The Chinese are credited for discovering the value of the sprouted seed. On long ocean voyages they carried mung beans, sprouted them and consumed them to prevent scurvy.
When sprouted, the vitamin content of the seed increases significantly, and the composition of the grain or seed changes in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, and all sprouts contain more vitamin C than oranges by weight. The amount of Carotene increases dramatically- sometimes eight fold. Even broccoli sprouts contain more nutrients than broccoli florets. Being a tremendous source of antioxidants, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc, one can hardly argue the value in including these nutritious greens in your diet.
The bran of all grains contains a substance called phytic acid which inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. Sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, possibly one of it's greatest benefits. Needless to say, this is the reason why we should soak all grains before consuming them, like the instructions said on the old oatmeal boxes our grandmothers used to buy. But this is a topic for another post! :)

We all know that even too much of good thing can be bad! Eating a large amount of raw sprouts can be irritating to the system, so occasionally cook (or I should say lightly steam) them, adding them to soups and casseroles.

(Soaking broccoli seeds)

(Inverted jar at an angle, so seeds can drain)

The method for sprouting is basically the same for all seeds and grains, but the length of time needed for full germination varies. First you soak the seeds in water. Smaller seeds, like broccoli seeds are soaked for 3-6 hours, larger ones like mung beans require 5-10 hours of soaking. After soaking, simply rinse the seeds 2-3 times a day until they are fully sprouted. In between rinses be sure to invert the jar at an angle to allow the seeds to drain. Once they are ready, put the sprouts in a bowl of cold water and skim off the floating hulls with a small strainer. Then strain the sprouts and store them in the refrigerator in a glass container- a plastic bag will suffocate the plant, which is still living.

(Seeds starting to sprout)

As you can see from my pictures, I use an inexpensive wide mouth glass canning jar with a sprouting lid. I got my lid from our local natural food store (Dan and Becky's Market), but I have also seen them in a magazine called "High Mowing Organic Seeds", for $5.00. (As a side note, I know nothing about this company, we do not get our seeds from them.)

Sprouting is very simple, fun, and rewarding. Bless your family by growing these little plants with exceptional nutritional value, especially if you live in Minnesota, where we have long cold winters and a short growing season. :)

P.S. I am sure if you googled "Sprouting Charts" you would be able to find a chart (I have one in a book I own) with information on how much seed to use, how long to soak it, how often to rinse it, how long it takes to germinate, and the average length of the sprout when fully germinated.

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